Sweden Moves to End Forced Sterilization of Transgender People

| Fri Feb. 24, 2012 5:00 AM PST
Love Georg Elfvelin and Ulrika Westerlund delivering a petition to representative of the Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt. Source: AllOut.org.

Swedish trans people and LGBT activists have something to celebrate this week, as the country—one of 17 in the European Union that requires sterilization for people who wish to switch genders on legal documents—may soon repeal the requirement. As I reported previously, Sweden's liberal and moderate members of parliament expressed desire to remove forced sterilization last month, only to be blocked by an opposing coalition of conservative political groups led by the Christian Democrat Party. Now, according to the Swedish paper The Local, the Christian Democrat Party appears to have reversed its stance, making way for the repeal.

On February 18, The Local reported that Christian Democrat leader Göran Hägglund and others in the party "outlined the party's new position in that it now wants the law changed and the sex-change sterilization requirement removed." Why the sudden change in opinion? When the Christian Democrats and others announced that they would not support repealing forced sterilization, the news sparked outrage on the internet and among advocacy groups, sending shockwaves through international media. One petition by AllOut.org received nearly 80,000 signatures. The public pressure seems to have achieved some success.

 

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Still, it's not clear exactly when the sterilization requirement will be repealed. According to Andre Banks, executive director of All Out, "[the repeal]'s going to happen, it’s just a question of whether the bureaucratic process takes two months, or four months, or six months, and activists in Sweden are going to keep the pressure on." Once the law is officially reversed, trans people in Sweden will get to have their ID and legal documents changed to reflect their gender "without having to go through what is often a really embarrassing terrifying process," Banks says.

Banks and other activists working on the All Out campaign hope that reversing forced sterilization in Sweden will send a signal to other European countries. By working closely with partners, he says, their goal is "to find moments where international solidarity can help tip the balance in favor of greater equality."

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