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Liberals push for end to sex change sterilisation

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16:15 CEST+02:00
A Liberal Party MP is planning to present a motion to Sweden's Riksdag in the autumn to push for a removal of the requirement for compulsory sterilization for those undergoing a sex change.

Barbro Westerholm of the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) is set to take the initiative on the issue as soon as the Riksdag reconvenes for the autumn session.

"This can not wait any longer," she said.

According to legislation passed in 1972, to undergo a sex change operation a person must be over 18-years-old, a Swedish citizen, be sterilized and unmarried.

Only the Christian Democrats and the Sweden Democrats are currently in favour of retaining the law.

At their party conference in July, the Christian Democrats rejected an earlier suggestion from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) to remove the sterilization requirement.

“A sex-change means that you willingly subject yourself to treatment in order to change your gender, and if you do that it is also reasonable that you give up some gender-specific properties of your old sex,” Maria Larsson, minister for children and the elderly, said in a speech at the conference.

Westerholm explained that the Christian Democrat conference decision means that the government are unable to unite on the issue and instead opted to put the vote to parliament.

"The Christian Democrats have their decision and Göran Hägglund can therefore not take his own initiative in the ministry. Then the Riksdag has to do it," she said.

"People must be allowed to live their lives as they wish as long as they do not harm anyone else," she added.

Westerholm does not envisage that her move will create any problems for the Alliance coalition.

"The government has shown that it can stay together and then one should also show that some issues can be resolved by other means," she said.

The government has previously been forced to find other parliamentary constellations in order to address matters relating to LGBT issues.

The reforms to marriage legislation in 2009 was achieved through motions in the Riksdag, as the Christian Democrats refused and the government could not find a compromise all could agree on.

The Registered Partnership Act of 1994 was also adopted directly by the parliament with the support of the opposition.

The issue of forced sterilization is a hot topic at this year's Pride festival in Stockholm, where American Thomas Beatie who has given birth to three children held the opening speech.

A year ago, the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) suggested a removal of the sterilization requirement and that it should be possible for people to freeze their gametes.

Speaking at the Pride festival on Wednesday, Social Democrat leader Håkan Juholt gave his backing to Westerholm's initiative.

Between 1934 and 1976, when there was a change in legislation, it is estimated that 63,000 mentally disabled people, epileptics and people with alleged social problems, were coerced to undergo sterilization in Sweden against their will, or pressured into agreeing to the operation in order to be allowed to marry or be released from mental institutions.

In 1999, Sweden agreed to compensate some of the victims of forced sterilization, offering each individual up to 175,000 kronor ($28,000).

Maria Larsson was however not amused by the comparison to the state imposed sterilizations in Sweden's past.

“I feel slightly concerned when people compare this rule to the forced sterilizations from history - there is no comparison, let me be clear on that. This is about how someone willingly has chosen to change their sex,” Larsson said.

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