Milestone in the struggle for restitution

Årsrapport 2016RFSL

In April 2016 it was decided that Sweden, as the first country in the world, will compensate the transsexual people who were subject to undergo forced sterilization in the process of changing legal gender. RFSL had advocated the issue for several years, and the work is not yet done.

In April 2016 it was decided that Sweden, as the first country in the world, will compensate the transsexual people who were subject to undergo forced sterilization in the process of changing legal gender. RFSL had advocated the issue for several years, and the work is not yet done.
It was finally prohibited to forcibly sterilize trans people who change their legal gender in 2013. As a part of that work RFSL decided to sue the state and demand financial compensation for the trans people who had been violated. Together with the solicitor Kerstin Burman we gathered 160 trans people that would consider being part of a legal process.

– This is a group that has been very badly treated by society. Even when other groups got restitution the forced sterilization of people based on their gender identity continued in Sweden. It’s important that they get an apology from the state because of how they’ve been treated in modern times, says Kerstin Burman.

The new minister Gabriel Wikström appointed a group to investigate the demands of compensation for forcibly sterilized trans people. At the same time RFSL prepared to take their case to the district court.

– We chose eight people of the 160. Their cases together gathered all experiences, they were of different ages, the sterilizations had been done at different times and they had different experiences that we wanted to capture. We reasoned that if we win with these cases everybody will get compensation, says Ulrika Westerlund, previous president of RFSL, and continues:
– And then a dramatic day in April, just as Kerstin and I put down all subpoenas in an envelope to send to the district court, my mobile phone rings. It is Gabriel Wikström’s political advisor that says that they voluntarily will pay compensation!

Now the forcibly sterilized are waiting for the governments bid, how big the compensation for each of them will be. RFSL has suggested that the sum should be 300 000 SEK per person, and that is based on how other forcibly sterilized groups earlier have been compensated in Sweden and in the European Court. But RFSL’s job is not done.
– We have to make sure that everybody is included in the decision about compensation, says Kerstin Burman.

There are great risks in letting the process take too long, especially since many of the forcibly sterilized are getting older. Some of the people are nearly 80 years old.
– They want restitution before they die. We can’t wait for an investigation that takes ten years, says Ulrika Westerlund.

How the sterilization of trans people was prohibited in Sweden

2010
RFSL courts politicians and organises a party leader’s debate at Pride. Reinfeldt changes Moderaterna’s stance in the middle of the debate and divides the government in the issue, something that gets a lot of attention in the media.

2011
Solicitor Kerstin Burman works on a case with a person that doesn’t want to be sterilized but wants to change their legal gender and wins in the administrative court.

2012
RFSL starts an intensive campaign that includes a big demonstration, digital petitions and several letters from international organisations to the government. Kristdemokraterna say that they have changed their minds through a debate article in Dagens Nyheter. Kerstin Burmans case has reached the administrative court of appeal, where we win again. “Forced sterilization goes against the form of government, the European Convention and is discriminatory,” concludes the administrative court of appeal.

2013
The administrative court of appeal’s verdict came into effect in January 2013. It takes time for politicans to to change the words of the act. This comes in July. RFSL, RFSL Ungdom, the trans organisations King and FPES decide to pursue the issue of compensation for the forcibly sterilized trans people.

2016
In April 2016 it was decided that Sweden, as the first country in the world, should compensate those who had been subject to forced sterilization when changing legal gender.

Download the full report below.

RFSL Yearly Report 2016 (pdf, 3,1 mb, will open in a new window)