International human rights activists have decried Sweden's decision not to update a "barbaric" law that requires all transgender people to become sterilized before their gender reassignment will be formally recognized by the state.
As GlobalPost is reporting, Sweden currently only allows transgender people to change their gender on official documents if they undergo sterilization beforehand. The official law, passed in 1972, requires all residents hoping to undergo a gender reassignment operation to be over 18 years old, a native citizen, sterilized and unmarried. An amendment had been proposed by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, following a ruling by the European Council’s Human Rights Commissioner which declared that the existing law violated human rights.
Although a majority of Swedish Parliament members are said to be in favor of changing the law, government officials announced last week that the coalition will not seek to repeal it as the process has been blocked by a small conservative party as of late, according to Pink News. The holdup has nonetheless been condemned by a number of prominent activists and political figures alike, particularly as nations such as Austria, Germany and Portugal had dropped similar laws.
“The government’s decision is rather surprising: forcibly sterilising transgender people is recognized as inhumane across the political spectrum," Raül Romeva i Rueda, Green MEP from Spain, is quoted by Pink News as saying. "It’s barbaric, outdated and highly unnecessary—not to mention against Sweden’s human rights commitments.”
In a letter to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Human Rights Watch's Boris Dittrich wrote, "The Swedish law causes anguish for transgender people who choose not to have the required surgery, involving an invasive medical procedure, for various reasons such as out of a wish to one day become parents."
AllOut, a local LGBT activist group, has started an online petition in support of a proposed amendment, Towleroad has reported. The petition also includes a poignant video narrated by Love Georg Elfvelin, a 21-year-old Swedish transgender resident. "I'm speaking out today because the Swedish government is forcing thousands of people like me to make an impossible choice," he says in the video. "If I need to change the gender of my identity cards to reflect my true self, just a small change from an 'F' to an 'M', my country forces me to be sterilized."
Over 61,000 people have signed the petition so far. Click here to view and sign the petition.