Archive for the ‘Sweden’ Category
I wrote last month about the decision by the conservative Christian Democrat party government (along with the nationalist Sweden Democrat party) to retain a 1972 gender recognition law under which TS/TG and gender variant people who want to change their legal gender are required to be sterilised. The requirement was a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is enacted as law in Sweden.
There was an international outcry at the loss of the opportunity to bring the legislation up to date: in Sweden, the law is only reviewed every forty years. Advocacy groups and activists from around the world protested the decision and an online petition to the Swedish Prime Minister received over 77,000 signatures.
Now, via Ulrika Westerlund, President of RFSL (the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights), I learn that the campaign appears to have been successful, with the conservative party which was blocking the reform to remove the criteria apparently having changed its mind.
According to a statement in Debatt:
Everyone is equal here. From the Christian Democrats’ side, we have been clear that the issue of sterilization at sex change – as well as other issues related to children – requires careful thought and analysis. Many transsexuals are met with hatred and fear, in violation of the principle of equal worth of all – the hallmark of Christian tradition of ideas and thus the Christian Democrats. Therefore, it is our opinion that the requirements for sterilization at sex change should be abolished, writes Christian Democratic party leadership.
This is very good news indeed for TS/TG and gender variant people in Sweden who wish to change their legal gender, although the underlying issue (linking people’s legal identity to their medical status) remains unexamined.
As a footnote, it should also be remembered that Sweden isn’t the only member state of the European Union requiring TS/TG and gender variant people to undergo surgery before they can change their legal identity. Published work by the TGEU’s TVT Project suggests at least eight other countries – Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain – where legal change of gender is contingent upon GRS/sterilisation or Gender Reassignment Therapy and we can only hope that these countries will follow Sweden’s example. (Note: the TVT Project’s list is not definitive and is subject to ongoing research and updates).
Last week, the government of Sweden took the decision to retain a 1972 gender recognition law under which TS/TG and gender variant people who want to change their legal gender are required to be sterilised. According to Ulrika Westerlund, President of RFSL (the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights), this was done to satisfy the conservative Christian Democrat party who, along with the nationalist Sweden Democrat party, are the only two groups in favour of the law. I gather that Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeld was fully aware that this reqiurement is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights which is enacted as law in Sweden.
The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, has made a very clear stand on the issue, that forcing TS/TG and gender variant people to undergo unwanted medical interventions in order to change their legal gender is a breach of human rights. The Comittee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, representing 47 membership states has taken a similar stand. The bitter irony in all this is, of course, that while Sweden is often considered to be in the forefront of human rights advocacy and implementation, this decision would seem to be a huge step backwards.
Concerns have been voiced at the loss of the opportunity to bring the legislation up to date: in Sweden, the law is only reviewed every forty years and it already creates at least one anomaly, in that the present law also requires TS/TG and gender variant people to be single in order to receive legal gender recognition – and this in a country which already has same sex marriages. Courts have previously overruled this requirement, but nevertheless it is still enshrined in the law. Additionally, there is the risk of setting a precedent and this is a particular worry for some TS/TG and gender variant people in Finland where the gender equality ombudsman has recommended that Finland should remove a similar requirement from the Finnish law. Finland also has a Christian Democratic Party in its Government which has already blocked a reform giving same sex couples the right to marry.
Although Sweden is not alone in upholding the requirement of forced sterilisation (the Netherlands, Denmark and France are other European countries with similar legislation [source]), the outcry on various TS/TG forums was immediate and international; amongst others, Human Rights Watch, the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights and TGEU and ILGA-Europe have all made formal statements of protest to the Swedish Prime Minister and Parliament, calling for the immediate abolition of the forced sterilisation requirement for legal purposes.
Meanwhile, All Out, an activist group advocating for improvements in the lives of LGB & T people worldwide, has joined with RFSL to launch an online petition to let the Swedish Prime Minister know that this legislation is unacceptable. The petition currently has over 36,000 signatories and is aiming for at least 50,000. If this is something you feel you can support, then please sign – and distribute the information and the link as widely as you can.