Reporting Sweden’s transgender sterilization law

The story was one of those that makes you stop and wonder aloud to yourself.

In this case, it was something like, Wait… Sweden does what???

GlobalPost correspondent Ann Tornkvist made global waves last November when she zeroed in on a law requiring "forcible sterilization" of transgendered Swedes seeking to officially change their genders with the government. She found that actress Aleksa Lundberg was one face of a burgeoning movement to repeal the 1972 law which rendered hundreds of people unable to bear children and includes a provision forbidding the freezing of eggs or sperm for later use.

Part of our ongoing 'Special Report' titled "The Rainbow Struggle: A Global Battle Over Gay Rights," the story is one of many intended to provide a rich and nuanced look at the joys and agonies of being LGBT in different places around the world.

Sites like Huffington Post, VICE and Mother Jones took note, expanding the reach of the story and galvanizing opposition to the law. A number of critics likened the policy to Nazi-era eugenics programs.

Then in January the international LGBT rights organization All Out launched a campaign to petition the Swedish government using Tornkvist's story as its top source. The petition gained nearly 80,000 signatures, which were hand delivered to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Reinfeldt had been criticized for allowing the conservative Christian Democrat party to block action on policy that the prime minister called "a dark chapter in Swedish history.”

But on Feb. 18 the organization announced victory:

"Today the conservative Christian Democrats – members of the governing coalition in Sweden and primary obstacle to ending the policy of forced sterilizations – reversed course and announced that they'll be supporting a ban on the practice."

There has been no further movement on the policy reported but All Out believes a repeal will happen within months.

Sites like Autostraddle have taken the story and run with it, discovering that 17 European countries still require sterilization for trans people.

We don't yet know whether the Sweden case will be the first of many legal changes in Europe, but it is clear that the act of introducing new information to the public often sets in motion a chain of action that leads to lasting change.

Such is the global impact of enterprise journalism.

For more from GlobalPost, check out our Special Report “The Rainbow Struggle,” an ongoing series about LGBT rights.


Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.