In most countries, legally changing your gender identity is an agonizing struggle, and in many European countries, residents have to get sterilized in order for the government to recognize their gender. However, a European Court struck down mandatory sterilization for transgender people last week, signaling a major victory for LGBTQ rights across the continent.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that forcing people to become infertile violates Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which says "everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." The court ruled in favor of three French transgender citizens who weren't allowed to change their names and genders on their birth certificates without undergoing the required medical treatment.
Currently, 22 European nations force transgender residents seeking to legally change their gender to be sterilized, but the ruling doesn't automatically strike down those laws. Only France is directly affected, where the sterilization mandate was already removed in October.
Although the European Court of Human Rights doesn't have the power to enforce the ruling in every country, it does set a precedent for the 47 countries that signed the European Convention (an international treaty to protect human rights). Most crucial is the fact that some countries still requiring sterilization, including Turkey and Armenia, were involved in the European Convention but don't belong to the EU, which imposes additional human rights standards on nations. For those countries, this ruling sets a new standard for transgender rights.
"The European Court of Human Rights is very much respected in Europe and we can expect that in the majority of countries where this issue comes up, this ruling will be respected as the new precedent," Richard Köhler, senior policy officer at Transgender Europe, told The New York Times.
Despite a positive ruling for LGBTQ rights, it's not a total victory. The court didn't find requirements for transgender people to get mental health diagnoses or medical examinations before legally changing their gender (also common across Europe) to be in violation of human rights. "The court followed its previous arguments that trans issues are medical issues and decided it was in line with European standard of human rights to request a medical exam and a mental health diagnosis," Mr. Köhler told The Times. "We think the next frontier is to get trans people and trans issues outside the medical framework because no gender identity is pathological or can be determined by someone else except for the person concerned."