The Swedish government will shell out compensation to transgender people who were victims of forced sterilization, the country’s public health minister has confirmed.
Until 2013, Swedish law specified that people who wanted to change legal gender had to be “lacking the ability to procreate”. This meant that hundreds of transgender people were forced to undergo surgery to prevent them from ever having children. More than 160 victims of the policy brought a claim against the government over the practice – and after a long political battle lasting years, the Swedish government confirmed it would settle the case and pay out compensation.
In a statement, Public Health minister Gabriel Wikström confirmed that the government will develop legislation in order to allow compensation to be paid. He said: “Until 2013, it was a requirement to undergo sterilisation for gender reassignment. It was an expression of a worldview that today we think is wrong, and renounce. The government will therefore introduce a bill, which means that those affected by the previous law shall be able to apply for compensation from the state.”
He added: “The ambition is that the law will come into force in July 2018.”
Kerstin Burman of Swedish LGBT group RFSL said: “Monetary reparations cannot completely compensate for the violations of forced sterilisation, but financial redress initiated by the government is an official acknowledgement that these actions were wrong and that the State should not have treated its citizens in this way.”
During the 1970s, other Swedish laws that facilitated forced sterilisations were overturned and, in 2000, the government apologised and financially compensated people who were forcibly sterilised under those laws.
“That the government now has chosen to take political responsibility for the forced sterilisations is very positive. Now we are expecting that the level of compensation will be appropriate and fair. In our application, we requested 300 000 SEK (around £25,000) per person, based on Swedish standards for financial compensation, and the fact that the State has violated the personal integrity of the individuals in contravention of the Swedish Constitution and the European Convention. If the government proposes a significantly lower amount, then we will return to the courts.”
Alecs Recher of Transgender Europe said: “This news today comes as a beacon of hope to trans people across Europe. While financial compensation can never give back the physical integrity of the persons, the Swedish government is finally taking responsibility for the pain caused by the practice of forced sterilisation.”
TGEU Policy Officer Richard Köhler said: “We call on 24 more states in Europe to follow suit and end forced sterilisation today. It is unacceptable that trans people are still subject to legally prescribed sterilisation in Europe.”