The Swedish Government have announced that they will not modernise a law from the 1970s which makes sterilisation compulsory for transgender people before the state will recognise their gender identity.
Many have argued that the current law breaks Article 3 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which protects “the right to respect for [everyone’s] physical and mental integrity”.
The majority of the Swedish Parliament are reportedly in favour of the change, but the process has been blocked by a small conservative party.
Sirpa Pietikäinen, Finnish centre-right MEP told The European Parliament LGBT Intergroup: “This isn’t about LGBT rights; it’s about human rights and torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
Raül Romeva i Rueda, Green MEP from Spain added: “The government’s decision is rather surprising: forcibly sterilising transgender people is recognised as inhumane across the political spectrum. It’s barbaric, outdated and highly unnecessary—not to mention against Sweden’s human rights commitments.”
At this time, the World Health Organisation classifies gender dysphoria under “mental and behavioural disorders”, a definition the European Parliament have already called to be changed.
As well as mandatory sterilization, the 1972 law also makes divorce compulsory for trans people, which it has been suggested, does not line up with recent “gender neutral” marriage law changes in the country.
Speaking to news agency TT in 2010, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt described the law as “a dark chapter in Swedish history.”
Other party leaders also supported this suggestion, including Christian Democrat Göran Hägglund.
Jane Fae, feminist writer and campaigner on issues of sexual rights responded today, saying: “It is wholly ironic that Sweden is in the news today over this issue – since the question has surfaced in relation to moves to repeal existing laws in this respect, which would be wholly positive.
“It is to be hoped that the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, currently in thrall to a small reactionary right-wing party, will pluck up the courage to resist their pressure and allow reform through his parliament.
“However, we should not overlook the fact that despite Human Rights declarations to the contrary, in Europe and elsewhere, the requirement for surgery that effectively sterilises an individual before they can be recognised in their identified gender, is pretty widespread, throughout much of Europe and the United States. Or worse, as in states like Tennessee, gender assertion is not recognised at all, no matter what an individual does.”
Some European countries have already put an end to sterilisation as a prerequisite for recognition, including the UK, Austria, Germany and Portugal, whilst others are soon to follow.
The Nederlands LGBT Equality Policy states that they are currently abolishing the sterilisation requirement, but several other Western countries uphold this law.
France has been at the centre of controversy surrounding this issue, specifically in the case of Delphine Ravisé-Giard, who, despite living as a woman for some years, was told in 2010 that she had to prove that her “change of sex” was “irreversible” before the state would recognize her gender.
Several American states also still have the same law.
A key player in the fight to have these laws changed, Thomas Hammarberg has, in the past, criticized the EU for a general lack of knowledge on these issues.
Hammarberg, the commissioner for Human Rights, wrote in 2009 that “Discrimination against transgender persons must no longer be tolerated” and has criticized the slow move towards the end of transphobia.
There have also been calls from the Swedish Left and Green Parties to review the minimum age for gender reassignment surgery, however this news comes as a blow to those in support of the changes.