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Finally! Finland to debate forced sterilisation laws for transgender people

Jess Glass August 23, 2017
Two surgeons operate on someone in a dark room

Campaigners have been trying to the forced sterilisation requirement for many years

The Finnish government is set to review its gender recognition laws in a move that campaigners hope will stop forced sterilisation for transgender people.

Under current Finnish law, a trans person must be sterilised prior to having their legal gender changed.

They are also required to be medically diagnosed with “transsexualism” and undergo extensive mental health screening.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has made several recommendations to the Finnish government to abolish these conditions.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in April that requiring sterilisation for gender recognition was a human rights violation.

Campaigners hope this ruling will translate into a legislative change when Parliament meets on August 25.

Two other Nordic countries, Denmark and Sweden, had similar conditions for gender recognition, but have dropped these requirements in the last few years.

Sweden has offered compensation for the estimated 800 people sterilised under the former requirements.

Early in 2017, Sweden stopped classifying being transgender as a psychiatric disorder.

Twenty European nations maintain their sterilisation requirement as of August 2017.

Legal gender recognition in Finland dominates everyday life, as the personal identity number (an equivalent of the national insurance or US social security number) is gendered and is used for everything from pay slips to library cards.

Photo of the European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights provided the initial judgement that forced sterilisation was a human rights violation (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

This bureaucratic feature makes it practically impossible for a trans person to not out themselves unless they are legally recognised.

In comparison, the process for legal recognition within the UK is becoming increasingly simpler but is not without its difficulties.

The UK has no surgical or hormonal requirements for gender to be legally recognised.

However, the UK does maintain the requirement for a psychiatric diagnosis to be made prior to treatment, a move condemned by the World Health Organisation.

More: Europe, Finland, Finland, Health, Law, LGBT, Medicine, non-binary, Trans, Transgender

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