HRC Blog

Denmark Drops Forced Sterilization of Transgender People

Post submitted by Yushuang Sun, HRC Global Engagement Intern 
 
The Danish Parliament voted to repeal a law forcing transgender people to undergo sterilization before legally changing their gender. This makes Denmark the first country in Europe to allow legal gender changes with no clinical diagnosis required. The new law allows citizens over age 18 to legally change gender after a six month ‘reflection period’ with no surgical procedure required. It will take effect September 1, 2014.

Interior Minister Margrethe Vestager said: “[The new law] will make life easier and more dignified for the individual, for example, when you are asked for ID in shops.”

The government added that the change is part of an international trend towards “easing the conditions for legal sex change(s).”

The new ruling in Denmark follows the Netherlands' decision banning forced sterilization for gender reassignment in December 2013. Earlier that year, Sweden also scrapped a law requiring transgender people to be sterilized as part of the sex change.

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO), in conjunction with several subsidiaries of the United Nations, issued a report calling for “eliminating forced, coercive, and other involuntary sterilization.”

“These sterilization requirements run counter to respect for bodily integrity, self-determination and human dignity, and can cause and perpetuate discrimination against transgender and intersex persons.”

This is the strongest statement to-date the WHO has ever made to support transgender people. However, according to the WHO guideline transgender people are still classified under Gender Dysphoria/Gender Identity Disorders. The term perpetuates discrimination by broad-brushing transgender people with the stigma of mental illness.

In 1992, the European Court of Human Rights recognized that a state’s refusal to allow transgender people to change the gender markers on their official documents was a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. More than 20 years later, however, many transgender people in Europe continue to struggle to have their gender legally recognized. In many countries, even those with a reputation of championing the equality and human rights, such as Belgium and France, transgender people have to undergo sterilization to obtain legal recognition of their gender. 

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