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Bill to change Finland's transgender sterilization requirement comes up short

Finland is the only Nordic country where people looking to change their legal gender are required to be sterilized first. As of October 2017, a bill to amend the legislation has not been able to gather enough MP support to be considered in parliamentary committee.

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Image: AOP

A bill to amend Finland's "Trans Act" that forces trans people who wish to change their legal gender to be sterilized still doesn't have enough support in the Finnish Parliament to be heard by the body's social affairs and health committee. Committee chair Tuula Haatainen told the Finnish news agency STT that not enough members of the committee have shown their support to put the bill on the committee's agenda.

In May 2017 the UN Human Rights Council called on Finnish lawmakers to revise the Trans Act and remove the sterilization requirement and the mental health diagnosis of “transsexualism.” The council suggested the practice be replaced with a gender recognition procedure that would allow people to change their gender with minimum oversight.

Finland joins 19 other European countries, including Switzerland, Greece and several Eastern European countries in requiring that trans people be sterilised prior to changing their legal gender.

85 MPs have signed on

The month before the UN recommendation to Finland, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on behalf of three French people that forced sterilisation violated their human rights to privacy and a family life.

A person’s legal gender appears on most official forms of identification, including birth certificates and driving licences, but in Finland even official ID numbers, known in Finnish as sosiaaliturvatunnus, indicate a person's gender.

On August 25, Finland's government decided not follow the recommendation of the UN Council. It remains the only Nordic country to adhere to the practice. Sweden, Norway and Denmark had all discontinued the forced sterilisation of trans people by 2014.

The bill to amend Finland's Trans Act was initiated by Left Alliance MP Sylvia Modig in 2016. Since the time the bill was submitted, it has gathered 85 MP signatures in the Finnish Parliament. However, Haatainen says the bill must have the support of the majority of the parliamentary social affairs and health committee's members before it can be considered. The number currently stands at 8 out of 17.

First pregnant man in Finland

Meanwhile, the news agency Lännen Media reports on Saturday that a man in Finland has become pregnant for the first time.

The future parent has been going through the elaborate gender reassignment process, but decided to interrupt the hormone treatments in order to try and conceive with his partner. He changed his legal gender status over a year ago, meaning that his ID number has already been changed to reflect his new identity.

The expectant couple says the pregnancy has proceeded normally, but the Finnish health care IT system does not recognize their situation due to the male identifier embedded in his ID number.

Maarit Huuska, senior social worker at the Transgender Support Centre of Finland's LGBTI advocacy organisation Seta, says it isn't certain that this is the first case of its kind in Finland.

"It is possible to take a break during hormone therapy in order to have a child, so in principle, some other couple may have already done the same during the gender reassignment process," she says.

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