Infertility as a Precondition for Legal Gender Recognition in Europe and Sweden: From Sine Qua Non to Human Rights Violation

When regulating amendment of legal gender, crucial for many trans people, several European countries have conditioned it with infertility, sterilisation or castration. Sweden, the first country in the world to do so in 1972, introduced a sterilisation requirement to avoid confusion in family relations. Sterilisation was also advised by the Council of Europe in the early formalisation of a right to legal gender recognition. Such requirements have, however, recently been found to violate constitutional and human rights by national European courts and the European Court of Human Rights. How did compulsory sterilisation of trans people develop from a perceived necessity to a breach of international and constitutional law? Informed by social movement theory, the paper investigates civil society mobilisation and socio-legal developments in Sweden and Europe.