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“Today is a victory for trans people and human rights in Europe.”

A ruling by the European Court has today ended forced sterilisation of trans people seeking a change in their legal gender recognition.

According to a statement released by Transgender Europe, a human rights organisation which has been at the heart of the fight against forced sterilisation:

“The Court found that requesting proof for ‘having undergone a sterilising operation or medical treatment resulting in a very high probability of infertility, amounts to a breach by the respondent State of its positive obligation to guarantee the right […] to respect for […] private life.”

Thereby, breaching Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Julia Ehrt, Executive Director of Transgender Europe said of the news:

“Today is a victory for trans people and human rights in Europe. This decision ends the dark chapter of state-induced sterilisation in Europe. The 22 states in which a sterilisation is still mandatory will have to swiftly end this practice.”

The ruling results from three cases against France submitted in 2012 and 2013, which leveraged Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (“the right to respect for private and family rights”) as well as Article 3 (“prohibition of torture”) and Article 14 (“prohibition of discrimination”).

Jessica Stern, Executive Director of human rights organisation OutRight Action International, said:

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

The news comes just days after the Swedish government announced it would be issuing compensation to any individual who had been made to undergo forced sterilisation in the country between 1972-2013.

Maria Sjödin, Deputy Executive Director of OutRight and former Executive Director of Sweden’s largest LGBTQ organisation, said:

“Money can never fully compensate the suffering of those that were forced to undergo sterilisation, but it is an admittance from the state that the requirement was a violation of people’s rights.”

Currently, Norway, Ireland, Malta, and Denmark are the only countries in Europe to have gender identity recognition policies based on the principle of self-determination without any medical requirements.

In light of Brexit though, many may be wondering what this might mean for trans people living in the UK. As Stern of OutRight Action concluded:

“The decision from the European Court raises the bar globally.”

The UK would be a minority in the region if it were to go back on the decision by the European Court and would presumably face pressure by neighbouring countries if it chose not to follow the precedent which has now been set across Europe.

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