NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Transgender people in Norway should be allowed to change their legal gender without having to undergo mandatory genital removal surgery and sterilization, a group of experts said on Friday.
In a report to the Norwegian government, an expert committee appointed by the health ministry proposed new gender recognition legislation based on self determination and recommended 18 as the minimum age for a person to request a change of legal gender.
"The Norwegian government now has the opportunity to stamp out an appalling practice that has for more than three decades violated transgender people's basic rights," Patricia M. Kaatee, a policy adviser at rights organization Amnesty International Norway, said in a statement.
"They are forced to undergo a range of abusive and invasive processes just to get their gender recognized legally,” she said.
Norway is often ranked as one of the world's most progressive nations when it comes to human rights.
Yet it is one of 19 European countries, including France, Belgium and Italy, that require transgender people to undergo genital removal surgery and sterilization before they can legally change gender, according to human rights organization Transgender Europe (TGEU).
Citing "deficiencies and challenges" in health services available to transgender people, the committee urged increased awareness and expertise of transgender health and issues in all areas of healthcare.
The expert group also recommended that the issue of introducing a third gender category be examined in more detail.
“Ambitions on healthcare provisions need to be stepped up," said Stein Wolff Frydenlund of TGEU in a statement. "The healthcare needs are very diverse in the trans community and particularly migrant and refugee trans people's needs should not be overlooked."
Earlier this month, Malta became only the second European nation, after Denmark, to allow transgender people to change their legal gender without medical intervention.
Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Lisa Anderson