Example 3: The rights of transgender persons in The Netherlands
Project Type: Advocacy
Transgender Netwerk Netherland (TNN)
Transgender Netwerk Nederland (TNN), ‘works towards a gender-diverse society, for the emancipation of transgender people and for their well being as well as their relatives.’
The Netherlands generally has progressive policy with regards to the rights of gay and lesbian people. However, the focus on those who wish to change their gender has not been given the same level of attention. For this example, TNN focussed on the official requirement of forced sterilization of a person once they have undergone sex reassignment surgery.
TNN drew attention to the Governent’s endorsement of the Yogyarkarta principles in relation to international LGBT policy. TNN highlighted the inconsistencies that existed in the government’s policy decisions with regards to the rights of transgender persons and the Yogarkarta principles.
TNN consulted with Ministry staff and parliamentarians from all parties and lobbied the Minister to abolish the requirement for forced sterilization. The Minister soon announced that the Government would bring the law in line with the Yogyarkarta principles.
After a period of inactivity on the issue, TNN took the opportunity to raise the issue again in 2008, when the Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs was in New York for the presentation of a statement on sexual orientation, gender identity and human rights at the United Nations. In a move to shame the Ministry at a side event, the then Chair of TNN produced his passport proclaiming that he had had to prove sterilisation to get it and stating that the Minister should apply the Yogyakarta Principles domestically as well as internationally.
Results & Lessons Learned
• After these advocacy events, the Ministry announced that a change of law was imminent and wrote to TNN stating that a proposal would come to parliament by the end of 2009
• The relevant Ministry acknowledged its lack of knowledge on the issue of rights of transgender persons.
• It identifies that the initial aim of having forced sterilisation was to prevent children from having parents of the same gender, but this purpose is now redundant given the legalisation of same sex marriages.
• The Dutch Government adopted the Yogyakarta as a guide to its LGBTI policy, and then TNN was able to draw attention to the incoherency between the Government’s domestic and international policy.
• This action also enabled the specifics of the Yogyakarta principles to be brought into Government for a more in depth discussion.
• However, the Netherlands has yet to introduce the new laws, and so sterilisation is still part of the requirements of a legal change in gender.