Little known fact about Sweden, that supposed bastion of liberal idealism: If a Swedish transgender person wants to legally update their gender on official ID papers, a 1972 law requires them to get both divorced and sterilized first.
Sweden is considered extremely gay-friendly, with one of the highest rates of popular support for same-sex marriage, and more than half the population supports gay adoption. Arguing that the current law is both unpopular and abusive, the country's moderate and liberal parties want to see it repealed. In response, the small but powerful Christian Democrat party formed a coalition with other right-of-center parties to join in upholding the requirement for sterilization. End result: a proposal for new legislation that allows trans—a preferred term for many people who undergo gender reassignment—to be married but continues to force them to be sterilized.
When trans people can't present official identification matching their preferred gender presentation, they can suffer "frequent public humiliation, vulnerability to discrimination, and great difficulty finding or holding a job," says Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Program at Human Rights Watch, in response to the law.
Sweden's relationship with forced sterilization goes way back. In 1997 journalist Maciej Zaremba, a reporter for Dagens Nyheter, discovered that over 60,000 people between 1935 and 1976 were sterilized against their will, including "'mixed race individuals,' single mothers with many children, deviants, Gypsies, and other 'vagabonds.'"
Then, like now, marginalized groups were obligated to sacrifice their reproductive freedom to gain basic rights. According to an article in the Columbia Journalism Review about Zaremba's investigation:
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