KINGDOM OF NORWAY: Historic breakthrough for transgender rights

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24 Mar 2016
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Sexual Orientation and Sexual Identity

Key legal reforms proposed by the Norwegian Ministry of Health today mark an important breakthrough that could change the lives of transgender people in Norway for generations to come, said Amnesty International.

If adopted by Parliament, the Ministry’s proposal would give transgender people access to legal gender recognition through a quick, accessible and transparent procedure. Crucially, it would allow individuals to self-determine their gender and do away with Norway’s shameful legacy of compulsory requirements that are discriminatory and violate a range of human rights.

“We are pleased to see that the Norwegian government is taking transgender people’s rights seriously, and urge the Parliament to put an end to decades of discriminatory practices by passing the law,” said Patricia M. Kaatee, Policy Adviser at Amnesty International Norway.

Changing the gender and legal status of minors

The new proposal would lower the age limit from 18 to 16 for individuals to self-define their gender and apply for legal recognition. Children between six and 16 years old could do so with parental consent. If the parents disagree, an external body will decide based on the child’s best interests.

No children under six years old can legally change gender on the basis of their gender identity under the new proposal. While lowering the age limits is a welcome step, Amnesty International does not see the need for an age limit at all taking into account the best interest of children, their evolving capacities and their right to be heard.

Previous practice

The current practice dates back to the 1970s and subjects transgender people in Norway to a range of onerous and discriminatory requirements to legally change their gender. This includes undergoing a psychiatric assessment, obtaining a psychiatric diagnosis, and undergoing irreversible sterilization.

Amnesty International has highlighted how such processes – which are also in place in many other European countries – are degrading and violate human rights.

Since 2008, the Norwegian National Association for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people (LLH) worked specifically on transgender rights, including calling for an end to irreversible sterilization as a required step towards legal gender recognition.

It is now up to the Norwegian Parliament to pass the law. Amnesty International encourages all members of parliament to vote for an inclusive and non-discriminatory legal framework, in accordance with international human rights standards.

18 March 2016

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