At a time when other European countries are slowing down on this contentious issue, and after months of sometimes heated debate within the ruling left, Spanish deputies finally adopted a law allowing free gender change beginning at the age of 16 on Thursday, February 16. The battle horse of the radical left party Podemos, an ally of the socialists in Pedro Sánchez’s government, this so-called “transgender” law allows people over the age of 16 to change their gender on their identity papers through a simple administrative declaration.
As a result, medical reports attesting to gender dysphoria and proof of two years of hormonal treatment will no longer be required, as was previously required for adults. The text, which was approved by a vote of 191 to 60 with 91 abstentions, also extends this right to 14-16-year-olds if they are accompanied in the procedure by their legal guardians, and 12-14-year-olds if they get the go-ahead from justice.
Spain thus joins the few countries in the world that allow for gender self-determination through a simple declaration, such as Denmark, which was the first in Europe to grant this right to transgender people in 2014. “Today we took a giant step,” Podemos Minister for Equality Irene Montero declared, defending a law that “depathologized” transgender people.
With an increase in requests for transition, particularly among minors, the debate over gender dysphoria, the distress caused by a mismatch between a person’s biological sex and the gender with which a person identifies, has gained traction in many countries in recent years.
Certain countries’ decline due to “caution.”
However, the adoption of this law in Spain comes at a time when several countries, including some that were previously at the forefront, are slowing down. In Sweden, the authorities decided to end hormone therapy for minors a year ago, except in sporadic cases, citing the need to demonstrate « prudence ». They have also come to severely limit breast removal for adolescent girls.
Hormonal treatments on minors are now prohibited in Sweden.
Sweden was the first country in the world to recognize “gender dysphoria” in 1972. In February 2022, the National Directorate for Health and Social Affairs in Stockholm issued new recommendations for minors, five decades later. Believing that “the risks of puberty-inhibiting and gender-affirming hormone treatment for those under 18 currently outweigh the possible benefits for the group as a whole”, she calls for showing “detention “. Hormones can still be given to minors, but only for research purposes.
This decision comes as the number of diagnoses of gender dysphoria has risen dramatically in recent years, particularly among adolescent girls aged 13 to 17, where the increase reached 1,500% between 2008 and 2018. The Astrid Lindgren Pediatric Hospital in Stockholm decided in May 2021 to limit hormone treatments to clinical trials, claiming that “knowledge about the long-term effects is lacking[aient].
A similar decision on hormone therapy was made in Finland as early as 2020. In France, the Academy of Medicine urged “extreme medical caution” when treating young patients and “extreme reserve” when using hormonal treatments.
Finally, the United Kingdom last month blocked a Scottish law on transgender rights, similar to that of Spain, which was passed by the Edinburgh parliament at the end of December after a heated debate. This incident weakened Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who resigned on Wednesday following a heated controversy over the confinement in a women’s prison of a transgender woman convicted of raping two women prior to her transition.
Right-wing opposition is fierce
The law “trans” sparked fierce opposition from the right in Spain. “We’re not here to play with people… Countries are backing down because they realize they rushed in, causing a lot of suffering. “Let us not repeat ourselves,” said Popular Party deputy Maria Jesus Moro on Thursday.
However, as the country prepares for general elections at the end of the year, this text has caused deep divisions within the left and the feminist movement. The text has been vehemently defended by Podemos and the largest LGBT organization in Spain, FELGBTI+, which hopes that the law “will encourage other countries to follow” the Spanish example, according to its president Uge Sangil.
However, other, discordant voices on the left have been heard, with some feminists believing that gender self-determination jeopardizes decades of struggle for gender equality. “To claim gender as being above biological sex (…) seems like a step backwards to me,” said Carmen Calvo, the former Sánchez government’s number two.
The Socialists attempted to amend the text to extend the requirement of a green light from justice to 14-16-year-olds, but they did not receive enough support in Parliament. “Opening that door” to gender transition “without any restrictions to children seems rushed to me” et” very dangerous,” he added. In an interview with the Madrid daily The World, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Reem Alsalem.
Menstrual leave will be voted on for the first time in Europe.
On the same day, the Spanish parliament passed, by 185 votes to 154 and three abstentions, a law establishing “menstrual leave” for women suffering from painful menstruation, an unprecedented measure in Europe. “It’s a historic day for feminist advances,” tweeted Irene Montero, minister of l’Egalité and Podemos member.
The new law does not specify the length of sick leave that doctors may grant to women suffering from painful menstruation.
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