Some transgender people in Germany are pushing for the government to apologize for forcing them to undergo sterilization to have their change of gender legally recognized.
They also want compensation for being coerced into having the invasive procedure, Reuters reported.
Until a 2011 legal reform in the country, proof of sterility or gender reassignment surgery was required for people who needed to change their gender on identity documents.
The practice of mandatory sterilization is still a common requirement in many European countries, according to Transgender Europe, a group that fights for transgender rights and social justice.
Tsepo Bollwinkel, a 58-year-old life coach who had to undergo sterilization to be legally considered a male decades ago, is one of the activists fighting for an apology. He’s working alongside Bundesverband Trans* (BvT), a Berlin-based transgender advocacy group.
Bollwinkel told Reuters that he complied with the rules “even if they sounded insane,” because it was the only way available to him at the time.
“I felt grateful for that opportunity (in 1984) because it was important for me to get legal recognition,” he said.
Today, his goal is to call attention to Germany’s complicated history with sterilization — which dates back to the Nazi years — and to increase awareness about the rights or the country’s transgender community.
In 2018, Sweden became the first nation in the world to offer compensation for transgender people who had to undergo sterilization. It offered 225,000 krona (around $24,000) to hundreds of people who had been affected by the rule.
According to Reuters, Sweden has called on Germany to do the same, where at least 10,000 people have had to undergo sterilization, according to BvT.
A woman named Sarah, who didn’t provide her last name, said that politicians need to take responsibility for what took place.
“This is not about our private past. It’s about the history of this country,” said Sarah, who underwent sterilization in 1998. “Many of the victims have already died. I wonder how many of us will leave this world before they understand what was done to us in the name of law.”
In 1969, homosexuality was decriminalized in Germany. In 2017, parliament agreed to compensate gay men who had been arrested for their sexuality.
In November, the country’s health minister, Jens Spahn, introduced a bill to ban the so-called “gay conversion therapy.”
Spahn, who’s openly gay, proposed legislation to make it illegal for people to attempt to change the sexual orientation or the gender identity of anybody 18 and younger.
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