LGBT rights in Sweden

LGBT rights in Sweden Sweden

Location of  Sweden  (dark green)

 in Europe  (light green & dark grey)
 in the European Union  (light green)   [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1944,
age of consent equalized in 1978
Gender identity/expression Right to change legal gender since 1972
No sterilization required since 2013
Military service LGBT people are allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation and gender identity/expression protections (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
Same-sex marriage since 2009
Adoption Gay men and women are allowed to adopt children. [1]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights in Sweden have been regarded as some of the most progressive in Europe and in the world.[2] Same-sex sexual activity was legalized in 1944 and the age of consent was equalized in 1978. Homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness in 1979. Sweden also became the first country in the world to allow transgender persons to change their legal gender post-sex reassignment surgery in 1972 whilst transvestism was declassified as an illness. Transgenderism was declassified as a mental illness in 2008 and legislation allowing gender change legally without hormone replacement therapy and sex reassignment surgery was passed in 2013. After allowing same-sex couples to register for partnership benefits in 1995, Sweden became the seventh country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage countrywide in 2009.[3] Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression has been banned since 1987. Also, since 2003, gay and lesbian couples can adopt children, and lesbian couples have had equal access to IVF and assisted insemination since 2005. Sweden has been recognized as one of the most socially liberal countries in Europe and in the world, with recent polls indicating that a large majority of Swedes support LGBT rights.[4]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity

Sweden legalised same-sex sexual activity in 1944; in that year the age of consent became 18. In 1987, in order to combat the spread of HIV, the legislature passed a law against sex in gay saunas and against prostitution.[5] It was repealed in 2004.[6] In 1972, Sweden became the first country in the world to allow transgender folks to legally change their sex, provided free hormone therapy, and an equal age of consent was set at 15. This was followed by an activist occupation of the main office of the National Board of Health and Welfare. Within a few months, Sweden joined the few other countries in the world at the time to de-classify homosexuality as an illness.[7] Transgenderism was declassified as an illness in 2008.[8]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Registered partnership

Same-sex couples in Sweden had the right to register their partnerships from 1995 onwards. These partnerships had all the rights of marriages except "as provided by sections 3–4" of the law. As well, all provisions of a statute or any other legislation related to marriage or spouses apply to registered partnerships and partners, except as under sections 3–4.[9]

As of May 2009, new registered partnerships are not being accepted - due to the legalization of same-sex marriage. The status of existing partnerships remains unaltered, except that they can be changed to marriage status under the law if desired.

Same-sex marriage

Effective 1 May 2009, marriage between two persons of the same sex has been legal in Sweden after a government report published in March 2007, written by former Chancellor of Justice Hans Regner, proposing that marriage be extended to same-sex couples.[10]

The former Social Democratic government appointed a commission to investigate the possibilities of same-sex marriages in Sweden. In 2008, the Riksdag voted on a change in the law concerning marriages. As of 2008, the parties in the Riksdag and their opinions of same-sex marriages (presented in order of size in the Riksdag):

The 2008 Swedish cabinet government, under whom this legislation was passed, consists of the Moderate Party, the Centre Party, the Liberal People's Party and the Christian Democratic Party.

Party In favour Seats in the Riksdag Position
Social Democratic Yes 130 Opposition
Moderate Yes 97 Leader of the government
Centre Yes 29 Coalition partner in the government
Liberal People's Yes 28 Coalition partner in the government
Christian Democrats No 24 Coalition partner in the government
Left Yes 22 Opposition
Green Yes 19 Opposition

Votes for same-sex marriage

Sweden has officially recognized same-sex marriages since 1 May 2009, following the adoption of a new, gender-neutral law on marriage by the Swedish parliament on 1 April 2009,[11]

Final Verdict Members of Parliament
  • 261
  • 22
  • 16
  • 50

On 22 October 2009, the assembly of the Church of Sweden, voted strongly in favour of giving its blessing to homosexual couples,[12] including the use of the term for marriage: äktenskap ("matrimony"). The new rules were introduced on 1 November 2009.

Final Verdict Voting members
  • 176
  • 62
  • 11
  • 0

Adoption and family planning

See also: LGBT parenting

Since 1 February 2003 LGBT people in a registered partnership/marriage have had the same Swedish adoption rights as married couples (this also includes the right of single LGBT persons to adopt). With regard to foreign adoptions, the Ministry of Justice states: "As regards adoption from abroad, it is important that we are sensitive and aware that those countries with which Sweden cooperates often hold a different view on homosexual people and homosexual parenthood. Cooperation regarding inter-country adoptions must be based on trust. This means that the limitations and terms that the countries of origin lay down must be complied with."[13]

In 2005, a new law was passed allowing lesbian couples to be treated for assisted insemination in public hospitals.[14]

Military service

LGBT people are not banned from military service. Along with Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, Sweden is one of the very few countries worldwide to explicitly allow all LGBT people to serve openly in the military.[15] Sweden was furthermore amongst the first nations in the world to allow LGBT people to serve.[16] In fact, gay men were allowed to serve even before Sweden demedicalized homosexuality in 1979.[16]

The Swedish Armed Forces states that it actively work for an environment where individuals do not feel it to be necessary to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity.[16][17] In 2015, they launched a Pride campaign featuring a soldier in uniform with the rainbow flag badget to her arm. The text's bold letters translates to “Some things you should not have to camouflage,” followed by the text “Equality is an essential ingredient in a democracy,” say the Swedish Armed Forces. ”In the military, we treat them with respect and see the differences of others as a fortress. We are an inclusive organisation where all the people who serve and contribute feel welcome and respected”.[18]

Gender identity

The ability to legally change the gender marker in Sweden has been available since 1972, when Sweden became the first country in the world to allow transgender people to legally correct their gender. But this was only allowed if one met several criteria - one had to be a Swedish citizen and 18 years old, unmarried (having divorced if necessary), and have lived for two years as the opposite gender.[19] The law was re-evaluated in 2007, proposing removals of the requirements to be a Swedish citizen, unmarried and sterilized, and presented to the Christian Democrat minister for Health and Social Affairs.[20] The Swedish Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights have inquired about the future of the proposed new law.[21] In 2013 the requirement to be sterilized before one can legally correct one's gender was lifted, and it is no longer part of the law.[22] It had been part of the law since 1972, and is thought to have been used on 500 transgender people.[22]

In February 2015, the government introduced two bills. The first one allow legal gender change without any form of psychiatric or psychological evaluation as well as the need of a diagnosis or any kind of medical intervention. The other one allow the sex reassignment surgery if the person applying for it submit a positive opinion from a psychiatrist.[23]

Discrimination protections

The Constitution of Sweden bans discrimination on grounds of "sexual orientation".[24] In 1987 discrimination against gay men and lesbians was included in the section of the penal code which deals with discrimination on grounds of race, etc. In 2008 transgender identity or expression was added to a new unified discrimination code which came into force 1 January 2009.[25][26] Since 2002 the portal section of the constitution bans discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Until 2009 the Swedish Ombudsman against Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation (Ombudsmannen mot diskriminering på grund av sexuell läggning), normally referred to as HomO, was the Swedish office of the ombudsman against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. The Ombudsman against Discrimination on grounds of Sexual Orientation ceased to exist on 1 January 2009; the Ombudsman was merged with the other Ombudsmen against discrimination into a new body: the Discrimination Ombudsman. The previously existing acts against discrimination were also replaced with a new Discrimination Act.[27]

The term HomO was used both to refer to the office and the title of its government-appointed acting head; the last HomO was Hans Ytterberg. The HomO investigated grievances of individuals and files class action suits on their behalf, for example a successful action against a restaurant owner in Stockholm who had harassed a lesbian couple. The HomO office was key in taking a number of initiatives of its own and submitting parliamentary proposals, such as the same-sex marriage act.

Blood donation issues

In the Autumn of 2008, the National Board of Health and Welfare proposed that men who have sex with men should become eligible to donate blood, but only after a six-month quarantine period after sexual intercourse. An earlier proposition in 2006 to allow MSMs to donate blood was rejected.[28] From 1 March 2010, men who have sex with men were supposed to be allowed to donate blood, after one year of abstaining from sex,[29] but the blood banks rejected the law, causing the law to be delayed until 1 October 2011 at least.[30] This allowed them time to adapt to the new regulations. In November 2011, all blood banks in Sweden were instructed to begin accepting donations. However, for MSM there is a one-year deferral.[31]

Public opinion

Gay Pride in Sweden. Seen in the picture is the Left Party.

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), Sweden is Europe's most gay-friendly country, with extensive legislation protecting gay and lesbian rights, including anti-discrimination law and same-sex marriage legislation.[32] A 2006 European Union member poll showed 71% of Swedes support same sex marriage.[2]

LGBT rights movement in Sweden

The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), one of the world’s oldest LGBT organizations, originated in October 1950 as a Swedish branch of The Danish Federation of 1948. In April 1952 RFSL adopted its current name and declared itself as an independent organization. It currently has 28 branches throughout Sweden, from Piteå in the north to Malmö in the south, with over 6,000 members.[33]

RFSL works for LGBT people through political lobbying, the dissemination of information, and the organization of social and support activities. Internationally, RFSL works with the ILGA and also collaborates with other LGBT organizations in neighboring countries.[33]

The federation operates counseling centers for both women and men in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. The counseling is intended for people who need to talk about coming out, sex, HIV/AIDS and other health issues, and relationships, as well as those who need assistance in their contact with the authorities and healthcare institutions, or who require legal assistance with, for example, asylum and wills.[33]

Several gay-pride festivals are hosted in Sweden every year. Stockholm Pride is the biggest and oldest festival, and has been organized annually since 1998. In later years, pride festivals have been arranged in Gothenburg, Malmö and Uppsala, and local pride events are hosted in smaller communities.

Summary table

Yes/No Notes
Same-sex sexual activity
Same-sex sexual activity legal
Since 1944
Equal age of consent
Since 1978
Discrimination laws
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)
Since 1987
Same-sex unions
Same-sex marriages
Since 2009
Recognition of same-sex couples
Since 1995
Adoption and children
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples
Since 2003
Joint adoption by same-sex couples
Since 2003
Access to IVF for lesbians and automatic parenthood for both spouses after birth
Since 2005
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples
Illegal for heterosexual couples as well
Military service
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military
Since 1976
Right to change legal gender
Since 1972, no sterilization since 2013
Homosexuality declassified as an illness
Since 1979
Transvestism declassified as an illness
Since 2008
Transsexuality declassified as an illness
Since 1972
MSMs allowed to donate blood
After a 1-year deferral

See also


  1. "Sweden legalises gay adoption". BBC News. 6 June 2002. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  2. 1 2 "Eight EU Countries Back Same-Sex Marriage". Angus Reid Global Monitor. 24 December 2006. Retrieved 21 March 2009.
  3. "Sweden allows same-sex marriage". BBC. 2 April 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2009.
  4. "Same-Sex Marriage". Ipsos. 7–21 May 2013.
  5. "HBT-historia". RFSL. Retrieved 17 April 2009.
  6. "Ny smittskyddslag från och med 1 juli (SoU6)". Sveriges Riksdag. Retrieved 17 April 2009.
  7. Dielemans, Jennie; Quistbergh, Fredrik (2001). Motstånd. Bokförlaget DN. ISBN 978-91-7588-367-0.
  8. Associated Press (20 November 2008). "Sweden: SM, Fetishes Not Mental illnesses". 365Gay. Retrieved 4 April 2009.
  9. Registration of Partnerships,
  10. "Inquiry gives green light to gay marriage". 2012-01-26. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
  11. Gays Win Marriage Rights Sveriges Radio English, 1 April 2009
  12. "Kyrkomötet öppnade för enkönade äktenskap". DN.SE. 2009-10-22. Retrieved 2012-02-05.
  13. Government Offices of Sweden. "Homosexual partnership and adoption". Retrieved 6 May 2007.
  14. "Ja till lesbisk insemination". Svenska Dagbladet. 3 June 2005. Retrieved 22 March 2009.
  15. Försvarsmaktens styrdokument för Jämlikhet
  16. 1 2 3 Sundevall, Fia, & Persson, Alma (2016). "LGBT in the Military: Policy Development in Sweden 1944–2014", Sexuality research and Social Policy, vol 13, no 2 : 119–129
  17. Swedish Armed Forces. "Our Core values". Försvarsmakten. Retrieved 2016-04-27.
  18. "Swedish Army: "Some things you should not have to camouflage"". samesame. Retrieved 2016-04-27.
  19. Hanna Jedvik (5 March 2007). "Lagen om könsbyte ska utredas". RFSU. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 24 June 2007.
  20. TT (19 March 2007). "Kritiserat lagförslag om könsbyte". Dagens Nyheter. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  21. Hannes Delling (13 June 2009). "Li tvingas skilja sig för att få byta kön". Svenska Dagbladet. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  22. 1 2
  23. Swedish law proposals on legal gender recognition and gender reassignment treatment
  24. "The Instrument of Government" (PDF), Constitution of Sweden, Art. 12. No act of law or other provision may imply the unfavourable treatment of anyone because they belong to a minority group by reason of ethnic origin, colour, or other similar circumstances or on account of their sexual orientation. |chapter= ignored (help)
  25. Swedish Code of Statutes SFS 2008:567 Discrimination Act. Published 25 June 2008, issued on 5 June 2008.
  26. "HomO Legislation Page". Retrieved 2012-02-05.
  27. "Swedish Code of Statutes SFS 2008:567 Discrimination Act Published 25 June 2008" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-02-05.
  28. "Förbud att ge blod kan hävas". Svenska Dagbladet. 20 August 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2009.
  29. "Sweden to end ban on gay blood donors". AFP.
  30. "". Retrieved 2012-02-05.
  31. "Frågor och svar om blodgivning – förändrade regler från april 2010" (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 2012-08-28.
  32. Wockner, Rex (1 June 2010). "Sweden is named Europe's most gay-friendly country". Pink Paper. Archived from the original on 16 July 2012.
  33. 1 2 3 "Om RFSL in English". RFSL. Retrieved 1 May 2009.
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