Sweden to lower age to change legal gender from 18 to 16

Sweden’s parliament has recently approved a significant legislative change that lowers the minimum age for legally changing one’s gender from 18 to 16 years old. Additionally, the updated law simplifies the process for gender reassignment. The new legislation received a robust majority of 234 votes in favor versus 94 against within the Swedish parliament.

This legislative adjustment comes after Sweden’s pioneering move in 1972 to legalize gender transition, marking it as the first country to do so. Despite its progressive track record, the recent changes have ignited a fervent debate across the nation. Proponents of the law argue that it represents a critical improvement for the lives of transgender individuals, enhancing their ability to align their legal identity with their gender identity at a younger age. On the other hand, critics express concerns, suggesting that the decision was made too hastily without sufficient research on the implications of such changes, particularly for young people.

Under the current legal framework in Sweden, individuals are required to obtain a medical diagnosis of dysphoria before their gender can be legally changed. However, the new law, set to take effect in July 2025, will streamline this process. The revised procedure will involve a shorter consultation period with either a doctor or psychologist and will require approval from the National Board of Health and Welfare. For minors between the ages of 16 and 18, the law mandates parental or guardian consent in addition to medical and governmental approval.

Moreover, the law distinguishes between the legal change of gender and gender-affirming surgery. The latter will still require a comprehensive assessment and is permitted only from the age of 18. Johan Hultberg, a member of the ruling Moderate Party, emphasized during a six-hour parliamentary debate that it is unreasonable to equate the requisites for legal gender change with those for irreversible surgical interventions.

While the changes are unlikely to affect the majority of Swedes, they are deemed crucial for the transgender community, potentially making a substantial and positive difference in their lives. Despite this, the legislation has faced resistance, particularly from the right-wing parties such as the Christian Democrats and the far-right Sweden Democrats. These groups, some of which are part of the government’s coalition, have voiced a desire for more extensive research into the impacts of such legislative changes on gender dysphoria.

Criticism has also emerged from public opinion, with a recent TV4 poll indicating that 59% of Swedes view the proposal unfavorably. Despite this, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson stands by the law, describing it as “balanced and responsible.”

This legislative trend aligns with actions taken in other European countries. For instance, Germany recently passed a law removing the requirement for a medical certificate for legal gender changes, even for individuals under 16, provided they have parental consent. Similarly, Spain approved a law last year enabling people over 16 to legally change their gender without needing a medical evaluation.

In contrast, in the UK, changing one’s legally recognized gender still requires a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria or fulfillment of other specific criteria, such as having undergone gender surgery and having lived in the affirmed gender for at least two years. This contrast underscores the varying approaches to transgender rights and legal recognition across Europe.

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