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Sterilized transsexuals sue Swedish government

The Local · 24 Jun 2013, 16:46

Published: 24 Jun 2013 16:46 GMT+02:00

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"Honestly, what the hell is the problem?" says Swedish actress Aleksa Lundberg about the Swedish prime minister's refusal to apologize to Swedes who were sterilized in order to change gender legally.

Lundberg, a succesful actress who has performed on the stage of the Royal Dramatic Theatre (Dramaten) in Stockholm, is one of several Swedish transsexuals who were sterilized to complete their sex change. Neither was she allowed to save any sperm before the operation.

On Monday, she joined a group of people who said they were demanding 42.6 million kronor ($6.3 million) in compensation from the government.

IN PICTURES: See more images of Aleksa Lundberg

"Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has said that the government can't apologize every time a group wants an apology, but last time I checked there weren't tonnes of groups queuing up for an apology for being sterilized," says Lundberg, who is in her early thirties and starting to think about having a family.

In 1999, the Swedish parliament adopted a law granting damages of 175,000

kronor ($26,000) to victims of forced sterilizations under a eugenics programme that existed from 1935 until 1996. The law was not changed, however, for transsexuals, who were until the summer of 2013 required to be infertile before the authorities could change their official documents to reflect their post-transition gender. In practice, that meant most transsexual Swedes went through with the full reassignment surgery.

"I want an apology because it has symbolic value, it will go a long way to reinstate the dignity and equality of transpersons," Lundberg says.

Lundberg went through the gender reassignment process at 18, having long known she was incorrectly stuck in a boy's body from birth. At the time, she says, she was too young to question the requirement that she be infertile. Lundberg felt she had to go through corrective surgery and had no right to freeze sperm before the operation.

"At the time, the most important thing for me was to play along and get the process over and done with as quickly as possible," Lundberg recalls.

"I didn't want to be the troublemaker, so I just nodded my head, and played the sweet little girl."

While Lundberg acknowledges that she understood she would not be able to have biological children in the future, she says she was put in a situation where there was no other choice but to go along.

"It was the law," she says concisely.

"The state is the highest representation of the Swedish people, laws are made by the government and parliament, so in actual fact, it was like being told that the Swedish people do not think that you have the same rights as the majority."

Lundberg says the Swedish government has so far shown no remorse at all, but hopes that the Swedish people will demand that they take responsibility.

On Monday, the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) filed the papers that may lead the way for such action. Some 142 people are now asking for an official apology.

"Our starting point is to ask for 300,000 kronor ($45,000) per person," said RFSL president Ulrika Westerlund, whose organization sent the complaint in to the Justice Chancellor (Justitiekanslern - JK), the authority representing the state in legal disputes.

"This amount is based on both the level of compensation for victims of forced sterilization in Sweden and on the level determined by the European Court of Justice in similar cases," she added.

The Stockholm administrative court of appeal ruled in December that the Swedish sterilization practice was unconstitutional and in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lundberg, for her part, thinks the prime minister will eventually have to answer for his refusal to apologize.

Story continues below…

"He'll pay dearly for his attitude, our dear prime minister will."

Yet she appears to have no real thirst for revenge, because when The Local asks what Lundberg will do with the money if the state has to pay up, her reply is curt.

"I'll invite Reinfeldt on a holiday in the Bahamas, and the first round of cocktails will be on me!"

"Jokes aside," she adds. "The money is symbolic, I'll give it to a charity that supports young transsexuals. They are still a very vulnerable group in our society."

AFP/Ann Törnkvist

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