In February, when a conservative coalition in Sweden’s parliament blocked the repeal of sterilization laws that force sterilization of transgender people, the news created a ripple of outrage around the world. And the story gets worse. As it turns out, Sweden is only one of 17 European nations—including France, Italy, Greece, Denmark, and the Netherlands—with similar sterilization laws on the books, according to Mother Jones (February 16, 2012).
Other nations with sterilization laws include Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Belgium. Laws are being reviewed, according to Mother Jones, in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Portugal.
Essentially, the laws make sterilization a condition for getting surgical procedures or changing one’s gender on an identity card. In most of the 17 countries, these identity cards are a prerequisite for employment, health insurance, university enrollment, and other key life events.
“When name and gender on a state-issued ID don’t match up with the gender a person presents, that person is subject to debilitating challenges and discrimination,” reports Mother Jones.
The Swedish controversy began in 2010 when Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare issued a proposal to change the nearly 40-year-old forced sterilization law. At the end of last year, liberal parties moving to repeal the law ran into opposition from the Christian Democrats and other center-right parties.
The silver lining is this: News of the block sparked protests online and around the globe, and in late February the Christian Democrats announced they would no longer stand in the way of repeal. The groundswell of support could mean hope for transgender people in the other 16 trans-unfriendly countries on the list.