Sweden lowers age for legal gender change from 18 to 16

Sweden has passed a law lowering the age at which people can change their legal gender.

Swedish politicians voted in favour of the new set of laws during a legislative session on Thursday (18 April), passing it by 234 votes to 94, with 21 abstaining or not voting.

Under one of the new bills, set to come into force in July 2025, applicants interested in changing their legal gender as part of their transition can now do so when 16 rather than waiting until they are 18.

The other bill will make the process of diagnosing gender dysphoria easier, minimising it to a short consultation with a doctor or psychologist and the approval of the National Board of Health and Welfare.

The legal process will be separated from applications for gender-related surgery, which will need a longer assessment and will only be an option for those over the age of 18. Gender-reassignment surgery, often called “bottom surgery,” will remain an option only for the over-23s.

Swedish parliament during a legislative session.
Sweden passed the bills to make legal recognition of a person’s gender easier on 18 April. (Getty)

Those under the age of 16 applying to change their legal gender on government documents will require the approval of a parent or guardian, and will also need to be sanctioned by a doctor and the National Board of Health and Welfare.

The prime minister and leader of the liberal-conservative Moderate Party, Ulf Kristersson, said the proposal was “balanced and responsible”.

Fellow Moderate Party MP Johan Hultberg said that a “great majority” of Swedes will not notice that the law has changed, but those it affects will see “a large and important difference.”

Swedish prime minister, Ulf Kristersson walking passed a set of EU flags.
Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson believes the new legislation is responsible and balanced. (Getty)

Kristersson’s centre-right coalition was reportedly split on the issue, with the Moderates and the Liberals largely supporting the law while the Christian Democrats opposed it.

The Sweden Democrats, a more socially conservative party that generally supports the government, but is not part of the governing coalition, also opposed the law. Party leader Jimmie Åkesson said: “It should be investigated to what extent sex-correcting surgery must be paid for by Sweden’s taxpayers.”

Denmark, Norway, Finland and Spain already have similar legislation and last week Germany approved a law making it simpler for trans and non-binary people to change their name and gender on official documents.

Scotland also tried to do much the same in 2022, but were controversially blocked by the UK government who cited vaguely defined concerns.

Peter Sidlund Ponkala, the chairman of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights (RFSL), told AFP that the process for gender recognition in Sweden can take “up to seven years.

According to LGBTQ+ community human rights aggregator, Equaldex, Sweden is among the most supportive countries in the world for queer people, ranking 18th out of 197 nations.

Despite this, the country still has issues with its LGBTQ+ right, including a lack of a ban on conversion therapy, and laws on deferral periods for donating blood.