On Wednesday April 17, the Swedish Parliament approved a law lowering the minimum age from 18 to 16 for changing one’s gender in civil registration and facilitating access to surgical interventions. After six hours of heated debate, the deputies adopted the text hotly debated in the country, by 234 votes for, and 94 against, out of the 349 seats in the Riksdag, the Swedish Parliament.

Two new laws will replace the current legislation: one regulating surgical gender reassignment procedures, and the other regulating the procedure for gender reassignment in the civil registry. After their entry into force, on July 1, 2025, changing civil status will become possible from the age of 16. For those under 18, the agreement of parents, a doctor and the National Directorate of Health and Social Affairs will be necessary.

A diagnosis of gender dysphoria, establishing that a person suffers due to a discrepancy between their biological sex and the gender with which they identify, will no longer be required to make this change of marital status. Gender transition surgery will remain authorized from the age of 18, but will no longer require the agreement of the national health department. And the removal of the ovaries or testicles will only be permitted from the age of 23, like today.

“Up to seven years” of procedure currently

The very controversial text weakened the conservative Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, who admitted that he had had to bow to certain currents in his party. The support of the left-wing opposition, however, made it possible to secure a majority allowing the adoption of the law. If the Prime Minister judged the proposed law “balanced and responsible”, his coalition was divided between, on the one hand, Moderates and Liberals, in favor of the text and, on the other, Christian Democrats and Sweden Democrats – supporters of the executive –, who were opposed to it.

For Muharrem Demirok, head of the Center Party, “Sweden finally has a modern law on gender identity” which will allow those concerned to have “a functional life”. Today, “the procedure is very long, changing one’s gender in civil status can take up to seven years in Sweden,” Peter Sidlund Ponkala, president of the National Federation for Women, told Agence France-Presse. the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (RFSL).

A large number of European countries have already adopted laws facilitating gender transition in civil status. Citing caution, Sweden decided in 2022 to limit access to hormonal gender reassignment treatments for minors, and drastically restricted the use of breast removal among adolescent girls.

Deep divisions in Swedish society

The Nordic country is seeing a sharp increase in cases of gender dysphoria, a trend particularly visible among 13-17 year olds born female, with a jump of 1,500% since 2008, according to the health department. In a Swedish society that has long been open to gender change, politicians, academics, health professionals and commentators have been torn over this project.

“I find this deplorable (…) and, in the case where it concerns children, as is the case here, it is even more sensitive. I think this is a decision that must be revoked,” reacted Jimmie Akesson, leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats party, disapproving the law.

More broadly, criticism has emerged of the presence of people of biological male sex in prisons or women’s changing rooms. Others worry that this simplification of procedure will encourage disoriented young people to embark on the path of surgical transitions.

In the absence of satisfactory explanations to shed light on the explosion of cases of gender dysphoria, politicians also called for additional studies. The president of the RSFL judges that the simplification of the law is important for transgender people, who are “vulnerable”. “They face a lot of risks. (…) We see that the political climate has hardened,” he adds.