European court: Turkey can’t force trans people to be sterilised

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Europe’s top human rights court has ruled against the Turkish government – finding that it cannot make sterilisation a requirement for gender reassignment.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Europe’s top human rights court, ruled in favour of a trans man who had brought a case against the Turkish government who refused to permit his gender reassignment unless he undergo sterilisation.

The individual, identified in court documents as YY, initiated the case in 2005 after being denied gender reassignment surgery on the basis that he was not infertile, which is one of the prerequisites for gender reassignment in Turkey.

A Turkish court did eventually permit the surgery to go ahead in 2013 but the ECHR still heard the original case and awarded him 7,500 euros in damages, taking into account the years he had not been able to access gender reassignment.

The ECHR ruled: “The respect due to the physical integrity of the concerned party would be in opposition to his having to undergo” sterilisation, and therefore a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, the treaty on which the ECHR’s authority is based.

“The resulting interference in the claimant’s rights with respect to his private life cannot thus be said to have been ‘necessary’ in a democratic society.”

Richard Köhler of Transgender Europe said: “We are pleased that the court ruled out this absurd requirement for trans people in Turkey to get access to medical treatment that can significantly improve their quality of life.”

Trans lobbyists celebrated the ruling, with TGEU Co-Chair Alecs Recher saying: “It is with great pleasure that we read the court’s careful examination of international and national trends against any forced sterilisation of trans people, not only as a requirement for undergoing medical treatment but also for obtaining legal gender recognition.

“The fact that four out of the seven judges would have liked the court to also consider the legality of forced sterilisation as requirement for legal gender recognition is an important sign for the trans community.”

According to TGEU, twenty out of the 47 states that have signed the European human rights charter still impose sterilisation as a requirement for people wanting to change their legal gender – though countries including Sweden and Denmark have moved to end the practise.

British Prime Minister David Cameron last year pledged to leave the ECHR if his Conservative party is re-elected, saying: “Let me put this very clearly: We do not require instruction on this from judges in Strasbourg.”

TGEU recently released a clip showing some of the arbitrary requirement trans people have to meet in some countries in order to have their gender recognised.