European Court: Forced Sterilization of Trans People Violates Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday, April 6th, 2017 ruled the forced sterilization of transgender people who are seeking legal recognition of their gender identity violates their human rights.

The court, which is in the French city of Strasbourg, issued the ruling in three separate cases that trans people filed against France.

Transgender Europe notes 22 European countries — Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Finland, Turkey, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan — require trans people to undergo sterilization before they legally recognize their gender identity. The European trans advocacy group on Thursday said the ruling will require these countries to change their laws.

“Today is a victory for trans people and human rights in Europe,” said Transgender Europe Executive Director Julia Ehrt in a press release. “This decision ends the dark chapter of state-induced sterilization in Europe.”

OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern also applauded the ruling.

“Today the world moved in the right direction for trans rights everywhere,” she said. “Forcing unnecessary medical interventions to access basic human rights like legal recognition of a person’s gender is barbaric.”

The European Court of Human Rights ruling said forced medical examinations or mental health diagnoses for trans people do not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

“It is regrettable that cruel and unnecessary medical examinations are seen to be in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights,” said Transgender Europe Senior Policy Officer Richard Köhler. “We will continue to raise awareness about the human rights abuses in the medical field that trans people are still systematically subjected to.”

Sweden to compensate forcibly sterilized trans people

A Dutch law that allows trans people to legally change their name and gender without undergoing sterilization or surgery took effect in 2014.

Lawmakers in Malta and Ireland have approved similar statutes in recent years. Norway also allows trans people to legally change their name and gender without medical interventions.

France since October 2016 has no longer required trans people to undergo sterilization in order to receive legal recognition of their gender identity.

Denmark in January became the first country in the world to no longer consider trans people mentally ill. The Swedish government on March 24 announced it would compensate trans people who were forcibly sterilized in the country.

“Human rights violations cannot be undone, but by recognizing the violation and compensating trans people financially, Sweden has taken a big step towards rectifying previous injustice,” said Ulrika Westerlund, a Swedish member of Transgender Europe’s executive board, in a statement.