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Popular Topics in Social Sciences
Stonewall Riots Stonewall Riots
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Topics In the News
Sweden Moves to End Sex-Change Sterilization Requirement
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 02/24/12
Last updated on: 02/24/12
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Love Georg Elfvelin, a young trans man, explains the importance of the repeal on YouTube.

Although Sweden has long been noted for progressive attitudes toward sex and sexuality, it has maintained a requirement that individuals who wish to alter their gender on legal documents must be sterilized. Despite a campaign to repeal this requirement, which has been characterized as "barbaric," the government had refused to budge because of the opposition of a small conservative party, the Christian Democrats, which is part of a ruling center-right coalition led by the Moderate Party. Now, however, the Christian Democrats have changed their position, thus making possible quick reform.

In January the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare introduced an amendment that said the current legislation violates Article 3 of the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights, protecting "the right to respect for [everyone's] physical and mental integrity." While a very large majority of members of the Swedish Parliament supported the amendment to repeal the sterilization requirement, it was blocked by a small conservative party in coalition with the ruling Moderate Party.

Outraged that the repeal was blocked in Parliament, glbtq activists and groups, especially the organization AllOut.org, created a global campaign to pressure the country's officials to take action against the law. According to Jason St. Amand of Edge on the Net, the campaign became the largest online campaign in history supporting human rights for transgender people.

In response to the international pressure, Christian Democrat leaders have now reversed their position. On February 18, the Swedish paper The Local reported that leaders of the party announced that they will now support removal of the sex-change sterilization requirement.

As Nicole Pasulka observes in Mother Jones, the exact date of repeal is uncertain. Still, Andre Banks, executive director of AllOut, said that it will happen soon: "it's just a question of whether the bureaucratic process takes two months, or four months, or six months, and activists in Sweden are going to keep the pressure on." Once the law is officially reversed, trans people in Sweden will get to have their ID and legal documents changed to reflect their gender "without having to go through what is often a really embarrassing terrifying process," Banks said.

Ulrika Westerlund, president of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, characterized the government's change in position as "incredible news for Sweden," but added, "It's crucial that the new law comes into place as soon as possible."

The current requirement creates real hardship for trans people who resist sterilization. When trans people cannot present official identification that matches their preferred gender presentation, they often suffer humiliation and discrimination.

Love Georg Elfvelin, a young trans man, explains the importance of the repeal in the video below.

Activists working on the AllOut campaign hope that reversing forced sterilization in Sweden will send a signal to other European countries, many of which have the same requirement. By working closely with partners, Banks said, their goal is "to find moments where international solidarity can help tip the balance in favor of greater equality."

"Swedish activists have worked for years to lay the foundation for this victory and I am so proud that AllOut.org could build the international momentum that finally pushed Prime Minister Reinfeldt and party leaders to end this cruel practice," Banks said. "It's a victory for Sweden, but it is also decisive for Europe. AllOut.org members across the continent will continue to push online and in Parliament until each of these appalling laws are thrown out with the trash."

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