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European Court: Turkey Cannot Require Trans People to Be Sterilized

European Court: Turkey Cannot Require Trans People to Be Sterilized


Ten years after a trans man first sued Turkey's government, a European court of human rights found that he should not have been forced to get sterilized prior to being granted access to transition-related surgery.

Requiring proof of sterilization prior to granting transgender citizens access to medical or legal gender reassignment is still a widespread practice throughout the European Union and the broader European community -- but after this week, trans people in Turkey face one less hurdle.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday in favor of a trans male litigant who argued that Turkey (which is not currently an EU member nation) could not legally deny his gender reassignment surgery on the grounds that he was still able to biologically reproduce, reports U.K. LGBT site Pink News.

The man, identified in court documents as "YY," first sued the state in 2005 after the government refused to permit his gender reassignment procedure because he had not previously sought sterilization. In 2013, a Turkish court finally allowed the man to receive the unspecified surgery he sought, but he continued to pursue his original case. The ECHR agree to hear it, and found that that both YY's privacy and the terms of the European Convention on Human Right's treaty had been violated, reports Pink News. He was rewarded 7,500 euros ($7,865) in damages.

Trans rights advocates throughout Europe have been lobbying to end the practice of requiring sterilization as a prerequisite to medical transition, as well as requiring sterilization and divorce prior to updating legal identification documents. Transgender Europe recently released a video reporting that 34 countries maintain such requirements, including Russia, Italy, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

On Tuesday, TGEU's cochair Alecs Recher was hopeful that such practices, which are considered outdated and invasive by many, would continue to be ruled violations of trans people's human rights, notes Pink News. Four out of the seven presiding judges in YY's case reportedly wished to consider the legality of forcing sterilization prior to granting trans citizens updated legal identification documents as well, but that issue was not addressed in the ruling.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled last year that countries can still require trans citizens to get divorced before updating their legal identification, lest an individual's union become an illegal same-sex marriage.

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Mitch Kellaway