Sterilized transsexuals sue Swedish government

Swedish transsexuals who had to accept sterilization to change gender legally on Monday demanded a multi-million payout from the government. Actress Aleksa Lundberg tells The Local why the Swedish state has treated her like a second-class citizen.

Sterilized transsexuals sue Swedish government

“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.

“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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Governments including Sweden’s see support tumble for their handling of COVID-19, survey shows

Governments are fast losing support for their handling of the coronavirus outbreak from a public that widely believes death and infection figures to be higher than statistics show, a survey of six countries including Sweden revealed on Saturday.

Governments including Sweden's see support tumble for their handling of COVID-19, survey shows
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven (L) speaks with Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen during an EU summit in Brussels on July 20, 2020. AFP

Support for the federal government of the United States, the country with the most reported infections and deaths, dropped by four percentage points from mid-June, with 44 percent of respondents declaring themselves dissatisfied, said a report by the Kekst CNC communications consulting group.

In Britain, just over a third of respondents approved of their government's actions, a three-point decline in one month, according to the report, based on an opinion poll conducted over five days in mid-July. 

It also included France, Sweden, Japan and Germany.

“In most countries this month, support for national governments is falling,” the report said.

The notable exception was France, where approval rose by six percentage points, yielding a dissatisfaction rate of 41 percent.

France, which has the world's seventh-highest COVID-19 toll, has all but emerged from lockdown but has seen infections increase in recent days, prompting the government to order face masks in all enclosed public spaces.

In Sweden, which took a controversial soft approach to lockdown and has a higher toll than its neighbours, the prime minister's approval rating has shrunk from a positive seven percent to a neutral zero, the poll found.


People who participated in the survey —  1,000 per country polled — generally believed the coronavirus to be more widespread, and more deadly, than official figures show.

“Despite relatively low incidence rates compared to earlier in the pandemic in most countries (with the exception of the US), people significantly overestimate the spread and fatality rate of the disease,” Kekst CNC said.

In Sweden and Britain, the public believed that six or seven percent of people have died from the coronavirus, about 100 times the reported rate.

In the United States, respondents estimated that almost a tenth of the population had died of the virus, more than 200 times the real toll, while Germans thought their tally was 300 times higher than what has been reported.

Such views, said the report, “will be impacting consumer behaviour and wider attitudes — business leaders and governments will need to be conscious of this as they move to restart economies and transition into living with coronavirus for the medium to longer term.”

The poll also revealed that fear of a second outbreak wave is growing, and that an ever larger number of people believe the impacts will last for more than a year.

People “are becoming resigned to living with coronavirus for the forseeable future, and looking to leaders and business to pave the way forward,” the report said.

They are also increasingly likely to prioritise limiting the spread of the virus even if the economy suffers.

“In the US, 54 percent want the government to prioritise limiting the spread of the virus over protecting the economy,” it said.

The poll found that mask-wearing was generally popular, except in Sweden, where only about 15 percent of people sport a face-covering in public.

Even in the United States, where mask-wearing has become a politically polarising issue, 63 percent of respondents said they were in favour.