Sweden to compensate trans people after forced sterilization

Sweden will offer compensation to transgender people who were forced to undergo sterilization in order to be allowed to change their gender legally.

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards NewsMavens, Sweden
Sweden to compensate trans people after forced sterilization - NewsMavens
Dual gender. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

Sweden is often hailed as a progressive, liberal country that promotes equality, but in the past it has lagged behind when it came to transgender rights.

It became the first country in the world to allow people to legally change their gender in 1972, however there were several necessary criteria, including being unmarried and having spent at least two years living as their non-biological gender.

The applicant also had to be infertile, which meant the majority had to undergo sterilization.

In 2013, an appeals court in Sweden ruled that the requirement of infertility violated the European Human Rights Convention, and it was abolished. Then, in late 2016, the Swedish government agreed that trans individuals forced to accept sterilization should be able to get compensation, and the law providing for this will come into effect from May 1.

LGBT rights organization RFSL said the decision marked the end of a “long struggle” and that it hoped this will pave the way for other countries to follow suit. The organization’s acting president also called for the government to apologize to transgender Swedes in a formal ceremony.

This makes Sweden the first country to pay out damages to trans people forced to undergo sterilization in order to change their gender legally -- a requirement that is still in place in 20 European countries.

LGBT, gender, reproductive rights

Details from the story:

  • Thousands of sterilizations were carried out in Sweden between 1905 and 1976 without proper medical consent, including on medical grounds (if pregnancy would put a woman’s life at risk) but also as part of a eugenics programme.
  • A government report in 2000 said that up to half of these procedures were carried out using coercion or even force.
  • In 1999, Sweden said it would pay damages to groups subjected to forced sterilization, offering each individual up to 175,000 kronor. However, this did not include transgender individuals.
  • Now, trans people who underwent compulsory sterilization as part of their legal gender change will be eligible for up to 225,000 kronor per person.
  • Between 1972 and 2011, when the requirement of sterilization was in place, 865 people officially requested a sex change in Sweden, national statistics show. Of these, around 600-700 are eligible for compensation, according to RFSL.
  • RFSL, which has been campaigning for this kind of compensation for several years, is one of the oldest LGBT rights organizations in the world, and was formed in 1952.
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