Finland’s feminist prime minister Sanna Marin comes out swinging for trans people’s right to self-identify

Sanna Marin is smiling in front of EU flags.

Sanna Marin, Finland’s prime minister, has spoken out about plans to reform the Trans Act to enable trans people to legally self-identify.

When asked whether she sees trans women as women, she said: “It’s not my job to identify people. It’s everyone’s job to identify themselves.”

The controversial Trans Act requires trans people to undergo lengthy mental health screenings and enforced sterilisation to obtain legal gender recognition.

In 2017, a bill seeking to reform the act failed due to a lack of support from MPs. Only eight of the 17 committee members supported the bill.

A new bill to reform the act will be put to parliament next year. For the first time, all five parties in the coalition are in favour of reform.

Marin said: “Finland has had coalition governments forever. So, we are used to trying to make compromises and trying to find consensus between different parties.”

Activists have been pushing for Sanna Marin and other prime ministers to reform the Trans Act for years

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2017 that requiring sterilisation for people to change their legal gender recognition was a human rights violation. However, the Finnish government chose not to implement their recommendations.

Over the past 10 years, the World Health Organisation and several subsidiaries of the United Nations have called for “eliminating forced, coercive, and other involuntary sterilisation”.

Sakris Kupila, a trans activist, was denied legal gender recognition after refusing the enforced sterilisation. He ran an international campaign to reform the Trans Act with support from Amnesty International.

Trans activist Kasper Kivisto has met with the current coalition to offer advice on the proposed reforms. He said: “We have the youngest female leader of a country, but alone it’s just a token. It has to have the support of the system behind it before it actually makes a difference.”

Antti Rinne, Finland’s last prime minister, had planned to remove the sterilisation requirement from legislature. However, he resigned before putting the plan in action. He had also planned to ban surgeries on intersex infants.

Marin’s government is pushing forward the reformations as part of a new Equality Programme. This will introduce new policies to close the gender pay gap, crack down on domestic violence and improve educational outcomes for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Some have criticised this programme for failing to recognise that these issues tend to disproportionately affect people of colour. Marin has insisted that the Equality Programme will improve life for racial minorities in Finland.