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Turku moving to gender-neutral travel pass

In future travel passes for public transport in the city of Turku will not be coded to show passengers' gender to drivers and ticket inspectors.

Image: Viivi Sihvonen / Yle

The catalyst for debate on the need for gender-neutral travel passes was an incident in which a ticket inspector in Turku inquired about the gender of a child dressed in pink.

"The inspector thought the child was a girl. Since the child had a pass issued to a boy, the inspector asked if he had mistakenly taken his brother's," explains Sirpa Korte, who heads mass transport services in Turku.

She says that it was an incident that provided a lesson.

"We have learned that gender is maybe something that shouldn't be included on a travel pass," Korte adds.

When used at present, the city's public transportation "Föli" passes still show drivers and ticket inspectors the gender of the person they have been issued to. This feature was included to help reduce misuse of discount passes.

"Discounts are so substantial that this was one means intended to make sure that a card was being used by the right person. If the move is made to gender-neutral passes, more inspections will have to be made. In future, adults should also carry an ID," says Korte.

There had been previous reports of the gender designations on the passes causing problems for sexual minorities. According to the local newspaper Turkulainen, Panda Eriksson, who chairs the association for transgender and intersex rights Trasek, earlier this month announced a personal boycott of Turku public transport passes altogether.

Sirpa Korte says that the matter is being discussed with a number of parties and she believes that the change will be made.

"It's certain that the issue will come up for a decision in the [city's mass transit] committee. I'd guess that the change could come into force this summer."

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