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Denmark: Changing Legal Sexual Identity Simplified

(July 3, 2014) The Danish Parliament has approved a law allowing Danish citizens to change their legal gender identity without first undergoing sterilization or surgery. Denmark’s Minister of the Economy and Interior, Margrethe Vestager, announced on June 11, 2014, that beginning September 1, Danish citizens over the age of 18 may apply to change their legal gender designation by stating they belong to the other sex and then completing a six-month “reflection period.” Previously, transgendered people who wanted their new identity recorded and a new personal identification number assigned under the country’s Civil Registration System had to have had an operation. (Denmark Ends Forced Sterilization for Sex Change, YAHOO NEWS (June 11, 2014); Denmark: Surgery No Longer Necessary for Sex Change, ICE NEWS (June 25, 2014).)

Sex re-assignment surgery often results in sterilization. Furthermore, the surgery is expensive and may not be covered by insurance policies or government health benefits in some countries. (Parker Marie Molloy, World Health Org. Calls for Removal of Surgical Requirements for Legal Gender Change, ADVOCATE.COM (June 3, 2014).)

Denmark’s new law follows the release in early June of a report from the World Health Organization (WHO), done jointly with six other agencies, calling for the end of forced or coerced sterilization as a matter of human rights. While the report covers sterilization in a variety of circumstances, it does focus in part on transgender and intersex individuals, stating:

In many countries, transgender and often also intersex persons are required to undergo sterilization surgeries that are often unwanted, as a prerequisite to receiving gender-affirmative treatment and gender-marker changes … .

According to international and regional human rights bodies and some constitutional courts, and as reflected in recent legal changes in several countries, these sterilization requirements run counter to respect for bodily integrity, self-determination and human dignity, and can cause and perpetuate discrimination against transgender and intersex persons … . (ELIMINATING FORCED, COERCIVE AND OTHERWISE INVOLUNTARY STERILIZATION 7 (2014), WHO website.)

Following a December 2012 Stockholm Administrative Court of Appeals decision, Sweden also changed its law to eliminate surgery requirements. As a result, many of the estimated 500 transsexual people who previously underwent surgery in order to legally establish their new gender identities are demanding compensation. (Denmark: Surgery No Longer Necessary for Sex Change, supra; Rebecca Nelson, Transgender People in Sweden No Longer Face Forced Sterilization, TIME (Jan. 14, 2013).)