Sweden Drops Law Forcing Sterilization of Trans People

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In a major reversal, this month the Swedish government announced plans to repeal an archaic law forcing transgender people to undergo sterilization before legally changing their gender. The announcement comes after several years of LGBT and human rights organizations around the world, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, putting pressure on the government to repeal the law and stand up for the sexual and reproductive rights of all people in the country, including transgender people.

According to the law, passed in 1972, Swedish citizens seeking a sex-change operation are required to be over 18-years-old, unmarried and sterilized. Last year, there were efforts to change the legislation, but the Christian Democratic Party, a small part of the conservative governing coalition, succeeded in blocking the change, arguing that the issue is complex and needed to be examined further.

Human rights activists argued that essentially blackmailing or giving transgender people an ultimatum that either they must be sterilized or the government will not recognize their true gender identity is not only cruel, but as a legal matter, a flagrant breach of fundamental rights. Finally this month, the Christian Democrats announced that they agree to abolish the policy on forced sterilizations. There is also agreement that the requirement for unmarried status will be dropped.

The legislation is unusual as Sweden has often been a champion for human rights internationally-including the principle that every person should be able to decide over his or her body, sexuality, and reproduction.

Similar laws exist in Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, and many other countries across the globe.