Government issues landmark apology to trans community in the Netherlands

Government officials in the Netherlands apologised to the trans community for mandating surgeries along with a compensation scheme to those affected.

Person wearing a trans pride flag, the government in Netherlands has recently apologised to the community for past laws

CW: This article contains details that some people may find distressing. 


The Dutch government has issued an apology to the trans community for mandating surgeries in order to obtain legal gender recognition in the Netherlands. 

Until 2014, trans people in the Netherlands were forced to undergo extensive surgeries, including sterilization, in order to amend the gender on their birth certificate. Dutch minister for legal protection Sander Dekker stated, “Such a violation of physical integrity is no longer imaginable today. It is important to acknowledge the suffering of transgender people and to offer recognition, compensation and apologies for it.”

During a recent cabinet meeting, government officials issued an apology for the harm caused by these laws as well as a plan to compensate those who underwent the operations. Under this scheme, the government has agreed to pay 2,000 trans people Є5,000 each.

Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, addressed the harm caused by these prerequisites to gender recognition, “The law turned out to be a symbol of social rejection for many, and dreams have been lost as a result of the irreversible sterilization.” 

Following the Dutch government’s apology, spokesperson for Transgender Network Nederland, Nora Uitterlinden, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “The wounds this inflicted on so many people and on the community as a whole are deep and enduring. Both those who ultimately underwent surgery and sterilisation to comply with the law as well as those who did not and consequently had to live without legal recognition of their identity.”

The sterilization requirement has been in effect since 1985 in the Netherlands. In 2013, the Council of Europe called for an end to these surgeries and a year later, a revision to Dutch law rolled back on mandating operations for gender recognition. 

Since 2014, trans activists have been calling on the government to acknowledge the damage and harm caused by these surgeries. In 2019, a compensation campaign was launched for those affected by this law. 

A co-founder of the compensation campaign and trans woman, Willemijn van Kempen spoke on the Dutch government’s apology, “It is quite a u-turn. Apologies and recognition are given after all the forced procedures on our body and the sterilisation resulting in an unfulfilled wish to have children. I am happy with (the decision), but it still feels unreal and I have to let this sink in for a while.”

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