Sweden ends forced sterilisation rule for people who undergo gender reassignment

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Sweden has ended a law which made forced sterilisation compulsory for people undergoing gender reassignment surgery, in order for the state to recognise their gender identity.

The law dates back to 1972, and a majority in Swedish parliament wanted it to be repealed a year ago, but a small conservative party blocked the move.

A ruling was made on late last year which said that the law did not allow civil liberties, as protected by the Swedish consitution, and was discriminatory as it only targeted transgender people.

The ban was ended today by the Stockholm administrative court, after the end of an appeal period.

Many had argued that the law broke Article 3 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which protects “the right to respect for [everyone’s] physical and mental integrity”.

A protest was held outside the Swedish embassy in London in February, objecting to the governing coalition’s position on the 1972 law.

77,000 people signed an AllOut.org petition calling on the country to reverse the ban, which the organisation said is the largest-ever online movement to protect trans human rights.

The Swedish Christian Democrat party then abandoned its support for the rule and so cleared the way for repeal.

Paris Lees, editor of British trans magazine, META told PinkNews.co.uk:”Thank goodness we avoided this ridiculous law when the British Gender Recognition Act was passed in 2004. It is long overdue that a civilised European country like Sweden should treat all citizens with basic human rights.

“Everyone has the right to pursue a family.”

The head of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), Ulrika Westerlund, hailed the change, and said that if lawmakers outlined compensation for those effected by the law, they would not file a lawsuit.

“If lawmakers take the initiative to adopt a law outlining damages, we will not file a lawsuit,” Ms Westerlund said, adding that 200,000 kronor (£20,000) would be a “fair sum”.

In 1999, the Swedish parliament adopted a law granting damages of 175,000 kronor (£17,000) to victims of forced sterilisations under another programme that existed from 1935 until 1996.

Reports suggest that between 80 and 90 people effected by the now repealed law had turned to RFSL seeking compensation.

This ruling came after an unidentified plaintiff wanted to undergo gender reassignment surgery, but refused the sterilisation. The case was taken to court on the plaintiff’s behalf by the Swedish board of health.

Sweden’s Parliament actually adopted a law in autumn 2012 banning forced sterilisation which would have taken effect on 1 July 2013, but today’s decision took effect first.

An Arizona trans man, Thomas Beatie, gave birth to his third child in 2008 because his wife Nancy was unable to conceive. Last year, he was blocked from divorcing his wife of nine years by a state judge who questioned the validity of the marriage.