Forced to be Sterilised

There are times when the law goes beyond being “a ass” as Dickens’ Mr Bumble famously said, into realms where the law is simply anti-human.

I was amazed to learn this week that Sweden requires, under force of law, that its transgender citizens be sterilised. I was prepared, at first, to think that, OK, it’s a quirk of the law that no-one could foresee, but now that we are in the 21st Century, it will be changed tout suite.

Not a bit of it.

The Christian Democratic party in the Swedish Parliament, being key to the coalition, are against any change to the law. As an aside, I am really not surprised that it’s a political party with religious roots that is insisting on this barbarism – ‘twas ever thus.  However…

As the Human Rights Watch organisation states:

The Swedish transgender law stems from 1972 and is out of step with current international best practice and understandings of Swedish obligations under international human rights law.

In July 2009 Thomas Hammarberg, the commissioner for human rights of the Council of Europe, made the observation about the forced sterilization requirement that in reality the state prescribes medical treatment for legal purposes, “a requirement which clearly runs against principles of human rights and human dignity.” This was followed up in the extensive report on human rights for LGBT people in Europe that the commissioner published this summer. The commissioner there recommends Council of Europe member states to do away with all physical requirements for people who want to change their legal gender.

In March 2010 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe recommended to member states, including Sweden, that requirements, including changes of a physical nature, for legal recognition of a gender reassignment, should be reviewed in order to remove abusive elements. The Committee recommended that member states should take appropriate measures “to guarantee the full recognition of a person’s gender reassignment in all areas of life, in particular by making possible the change of name and gender in official documents in a quick, transparent and accessible way.”

I am mindful that the situation here in the Netherlands is not so far in advance of that in Sweden; however, the Dutch government, a coalition of the conservative Liberal Party and the Christian-Democratic party, has publicly acknowledged that its transgender law violates international human rights law and has published a law proposal which does away with the forced sterilisation requirement.

Here’s Georg Elfvelin asking for your support to help change the Swedish law:

And here’s where you can sign a petition to Sweden’s Prime Minister. I hope that you will.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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