Finland passes new progressive trans rights laws on gender recognition

Finland has passed a new progressive rights law that makes it significantly easier for trans people to change their legal gender.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin said the law was a priority for his government, and on Wednesday it passed by a large majority in parliament with 113 votes in favor, 69 against. There were 17 deputies not present for the vote, but no abstentions.

Politicians in Marin’s five-party coalition government voted overwhelmingly in favor of the new legislation, although 13 Center Party MPs voted against. The far-right Finnish Party and religious Christian Democrats also opposed it.

The new laws mean that transgender people aged 18 and over can legally change their sex through a self-declaration process and no longer have to go through an onerous medical and psychiatric approval process first.

The amendments also scrap a provision that required transgender people to provide a medical certificate proving they were infertile or sterilized before the government recognizes their gender identity.

This part of the existing law aimed to prevent transgender people from having children and had been widely condemned by human rights groups for many years.

“We expected the bill to pass, but over the past few weeks there has been an incredibly strong campaign against the law, especially anti-gender type rhetoric,” said Kerttu Tarjamogeneral secretary of SetaFinland’s oldest and most respected LGBTQI+ rights organization.

Some of the arguments used by opponents of the new legislation to try to stop it are familiar ‘corner issues’ that have been deployed in other countries, such as Scotland.

“They said it would open the doors for cisgender men to harass women in locker rooms, they argued about prisons and tried to use the UK as an example,” Tarjamo told Euronews.

One of the potentially most controversial aspects of the legislation was whether to extend the new trans rights provisions to 16- and 17-year-olds, who are considered minors under Finnish law.

“At the last minute, it was something that wasn’t in the bill, and it’s something we’re disappointed about, but we know there was strong support for more trans reform.” , explained Tarjamo.

Finland’s new trans rights law has no impact on existing legislation in the Nordic nation that deals with confirmatory medical treatment for trans people – something transgender rights activists say has been widely misunderstood, even by the politicians who voted on the proposals.

“Opponents have tried to use this, tried to mix new legal gender laws with the concept of sex reassignment treatment,” Kerttu Tarjamo said. “But there are medical guidelines that regulate that, not this legislation.”

Spain approved legislation last month allowing self-declaration gender changes, while the UK government vetoed a similar bill Scottish lawmakers passed in December.

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