Government offers apologies for old Transgender Act

Under the Transgender Act (Transgenderwet), transgender people have been able change their gender designation on their birth certificate since 1985. This was subject to a number of conditions, such as modifying the body to align with the desired gender and an irreversible sterilisation procedure. These requirements were abolished with the amendment of the Transgender Act in 2014. The Transgender Collective held the State of the Netherlands liable at the end of 2019. They have demanded acknowledgement, apologies and financial compensation for the suffering caused by the conditions included in the Transgender Act. In response, the government has conveyed its acknowledgement and apologies to the collective. A voluntary financial compensation scheme will also be made available.

The Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker and the Minister of Emancipation Ingrid van Engelshoven have spoken to the Transgender Collective today and offered apologies on behalf of the State of the Netherlands. Dekker commented:

‘Transgender people were faced with a difficult, almost impossible choice under the old law. It was only possible to change the gender designation after a physical transition and completely abandoning the wish to have children. Such a violation of physical integrity is no longer conceivable in this day and age. It is important to recognise the suffering of transgender people and to offer acknowledgement, compensation and apologies.’

Van Engelshoven added:

‘The poignant personal stories illustrate that this legislation has had an enormous impact on transgender people. For many, the law proved to be a symbol of social rejection and dreams were extinguished as a result of the irreversible sterilisation procedure, which has inflicted considerable suffering. The government therefore considers acknowledging their suffering, offering apologies and financial compensation appropriate.’

In the government’s view, the Transgender Act should be deemed unlawful from the end of 2008, based partly on the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. Although the time limit for compensation claims has expired in principle, the government firmly believes that acknowledgement of suffering and apologies are appropriate, combined with a voluntary financial compensation. This acknowledgement and the apologies relate to the entire period in which the old Transgender Act was in force. Transgender people who underwent a physical transition between 1 July 1985 and 1 July 2014, resulting in changing the gender registration on their birth certificate, are eligible for compensation. The compensation amounts to €5,000 per person. The scheme will be published before the summer of 2021.

Ministers Van Engelshoven and Dekker will continue the discussions with the Transgender Collective and other parties so that acknowledgement and the apologies will contribute to wider social acknowledgement, greater awareness of the events and to offer the opportunity for meetings.