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Sterilized transsexuals could get payouts from Sweden

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Sterilized transsexuals could get payouts from Sweden
Stockholm's Pride Parade last summer. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT
12:17 CEST+02:00
Swedish transsexuals forced to undergo sterilization in order to be allowed to change their gender were celebrating after the government agreed they should be able to seek damages.

Sweden is often hailed as a forward-thinking society promoting equality for all, but up until 2013 transsexuals had to accept sterilization before getting official recognition for their sex changes.

Since then, campaigners have been vying for compensation from the state.

That fight took a groundbreaking step forward when the centre-left Social Democrat-Green coalition announced on Wednesday that it would look into adopting a law granting damages to transsexual sterilization victims, which would come into effect in 2018 if it clears the legislative hurdles.

"It is part of modern society to be able to provide this type of compensation and to establish that this is a view which we regard as completely reprehensbible," Health Minister Gabriel Wikström told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

In 1999, the Swedish parliament adopted a law granting damages of 175,000 kronor ($22,000) 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 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 full reassignment surgery.

Not until three years ago did the Stockholm administrative court of appeal rule that the practice of forced sterilizations was unconstitutional and in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Between 1972 and 2011, 865 people officially requested a sex change, according to statistics. Some 500 went through with the operation.

"We're getting the same kind of vindication as the other forced sterilized people, it feels like a tremendous recognition by the government that the state has acted wrongfully. When I've got the money in hand, I will celebrate," said Maria Sundin of RFSL, Sweden's largest campaign organization for gay and transgender rights, in a statement on Wednesday.

It is not yet known what size payouts victims would be entitled to, but a lawyer working for transgender rights told Svenska Dagbladet around 300,000 kronor would be a "fair sum".

"It is based on Swedish legislation for that kind of injury and the fact that it is a type of abuse. The injury was not caused in a car accident, it happened in violation of the Swedish constitution and the European Convention. That should be added to the cost," said Kerstin Burman.

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