Finland passes sweeping reform of gender recognition law and introduces self-ID for trans people
Finland’s parliament has passed a new gender recognition law which abolishes archaic practices that require trans people to prove they are infertile.
The legislation comes just weeks after the UK government blocked Scotland’s own landmark gender recognition reforms in an unprecedented political move, by using Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 to do so.
Scotland’s gender recognition bill would have introduced gender self-identification in a similar way to that of Finland’s new law – and legislation which already exists in 18 other countries.
The new Finnish law – passed by 113 votes to 69 – removes the requirement for trans people to be sterilised and obtain a psychiatric diagnosis in order for them to get legal gender recognition.
Under Finland’s current legislation, which Amnesty International states is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, a person has to provide proof of infertility before they can be granted legal gender recognition.
The new law makes recognition available for adults upon written application after a mandatory 30-day ‘period of reflection’.
Prime minister Sanna Marin – who describes herself as from a ‘rainbow family’ as she grew up raised by two mums – has previously said the matter of transgender rights is a “very important issue” to her and was keen to get the legislation through parliament.
Matti Pihlajamaa, Amnesty International Finland’s LGBTI rights advisor said: “By passing this act, Finland has taken a major step towards protecting trans people’s rights and improving their lives and right to self-determination.
“The vote comes as a result of more than a decade of campaigning by civil society groups and is a testament to the commitment of activists who have fought long and hard – often in the face of toxic rhetoric – to see this day.”
“While this new law will have a huge and positive impact and provide an important pillar for non-discrimination, more must still be done,” Pihlajamaa continued, “Excluding children from legal gender recognition violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“We will continue to call on the government to amend the legislation accordingly to ensure it advances the rights of children.”
In a statement, Finnish LGBTQ+ rights organisation Seta said: “Victory for human rights! #Translaki strengthens human rights in Finland. Next, the rights of children and young people must be protected!
“A huge thank you to all the organisations and partners who voted in favour of the law and made an impact!”
Sasha Misra, associate director of communications at Stonewall praised the move and said:“Its wonderful to see the Finnish government and parliament introduce a Gender Recognition Reform Bill that ensures a safe, respectful and dignified process of legally recognising a trans person’s gender.
“Finland was one of the last countries in Europe that required trans people to be sterilised before legally changing their gender, but it has now joined over 30 other countries that already adopted similar legislation, implementing leading international practices endorsed by the United Nation.
“The UK Government should also recognise the importance of protecting and improving the lives of all LGBTQ+ people and reverse its decision to invoke S.35 of the Scotland Act.”
Scotland’s landmark gender-reform legislation was passed by 86 votes to 39 by the Scottish parliament last month and heralded as a key moment for LGBTQ+ rights in the UK.
The bill would have made obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) easier for trans people.
However, the UK government blocked the act over concerns for “single-sex” spaces and “equal pay” protections.
On 17 January, Scotland secretary Alister Jack told the House of Commons he did not take the decision “lightly” but the insisted government believed the bill would have a “serious adverse impact among other things on the operation of the Equality Act 2010”.
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