A move to Sweden might cause a child to lose its mother

Opinion articlesRFSL

Same-sex couples who have been acknowledged as legal parents in the country where their child was born, and who have often lived together as a family for several years, might be forced to adopt their own children upon moving to Sweden. The legislation must be changed to stop the discrimination of same-sex couples.

June 18 2019

Children who have lived abroad with their mothers and move to Sweden risk losing the legal connection to one of them. In Sweden, parenthood recognised abroad doesn’t apply to same-sex couples in the same way as it does to different-sex couples. The consequence for the children is a situation of uncertainty, especially if the legal parent should die or if there’s a conflict between the parents.

Parents who have been recognised as legal parents in the country where the child was born, and who in many cases have lived together as a family for many years, might be forced to adopt their own children upon moving to Sweden. That also applies to families where both parents are Swedish citizens who move back to Sweden after having lived abroad.

A father in a different-sex relationship, who isn’t the biological parent of a child that his wife or partner has given birth to, wouldn’t have their children taken from him under the same circumstances. The comparable situation we are describing concerns couples where one individual has given birth to a child and where both parents have been registered as legal parents in accordance with current legislation in the country where the child was born.

One example is Sara and Soledad, who had a child in Spain and lived there as a family before deciding to move to Sweden. They are both legal parents to their child in Spain and are registered in the birth certificate. After the move to Sweden, Soledad was no longer recognised as the parent of her child according to the Swedish Tax Agency’s interpretation of the Swedish legislation.

A different-sex couple conceiving through assisted reproduction before moving to Sweden wouldn’t have the same problem. Sara and Soledad’s case has recently been tried in the Administrative Court of Appeal, who at the beginning of June determined that the Swedish Tax Agency’s decision to not recognise Soledad as a parent was correct. The ruling will now be appealed.

A number of problems arise for same-sex couples who have lived abroad with their children. For example, the children that are born to a Swedish parent have the right to Swedish citizenship. But if the mother who is a Swedish citizen didn’t give birth, she will not be recognised as the child’s parent in Sweden, whereby the child will not get Swedish citizenship.

Over 8 700 people have signed a petition to ensure that parenthood from other countries is recognised in Sweden as well and to stop the discrimination of same-sex couples.

It’s time for the government to appoint a workgroup to investigate the legislation in this issue. The laws that concern international and Nordic paternity issues could be interpreted in a gender-neutral way, but the authorities choose not to. The law, therefore, needs to be changed to safeguard that a child born abroad to same-sex couples have the same rights as children born to different-sex couples.

Our family legislation and current regulations and practice violate the rights stated in the European Convention on Human Rights and the Children’s Convention. Everybody has the right to a secure and legally equal family life regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Sandra Ehne, national president of RFSL
Cal Orre, advisor at RFSL
Emil Kjälled, legal practitioner at Antidiskrimineringsbyrån Stockholm Syd
Elin Boyer, legal practitioner at Antidiskrimineringsbyrån Uppsala
Kerstin Burman, legal practitioner
Mia Walldén, rainbow parent
Malin Björk, rainbow parent and member of the European Parliament (V)
Jenny Mörk, operations manager at Antidiskrimineringsbyrån Norra Skåne
Annika Heikkinen, business developer at Antidiskrimineringsbyrån Stockholm Norr
Sandra Isaksson, president of Byrån mot diskriminering Östergötland
Aisa Babakirad, legal practitioner at Rättighetscentrum Dalarna
J-O Madeleine Ågren, business developer at Rättighetscentrum Norrbotten
Petra Elb, operations manager at Örebro Rättighetscentrum
Moises Löfroth, legal practitioner at Rättighetscentrum Västerbotten
Nine Karlsson Norman, legal practitioner at Antidiskrimineringsbyrån Agera Värmland
Barbro Westerholm, member of parliament (L)

The opinion article was published in Dagens Samhälle June 18 2019