At a time when other European countries are slowing down on this controversial subject and after months of sometimes heated debate within the ruling left, Spanish MPs definitively adopted, on Thursday, February 16, a law allowing free change of gender. from 16 years old. Battle horse of the radical left party Podemos, an ally of the socialists in the government of Pedro Sánchez, this so-called "transgender" law allows people who wish to change their gender on their identity papers via a simple administrative declaration as soon as the age of 16.
It will therefore no longer be necessary to provide medical reports attesting to gender dysphoria and proof of hormonal treatment followed for two years, as was the case until now for adults. The text – adopted by 191 votes to 60 with 91 abstentions – also extends this right to 14-16 year olds, provided that they are accompanied in the procedure by their legal guardians, as well as to 12-14 year olds, if they get the green light from justice.
Spain thus joins the few countries in the world allowing gender self-determination via a simple declaration, like Denmark, the first country to grant this right in Europe to transgender people in 2014. takes a giant step" in recognizing the "free determination of gender identity", launched Podemos Minister for Equality Irene Montero, defending a law which "depathologizes" transgender people.
The debate over gender dysphoria, that is, the distress caused by a mismatch between a person's biological sex and the gender with which a person identifies, has gained momentum in many countries in recent years with the increase in requests for transition, particularly among minors.
Retreat of certain countries out of "prudence"
But the adoption of this law in Spain comes at a time when several countries, some of which were hitherto at the forefront on the subject, are slowing down. In Sweden, the authorities decided a year ago to end hormone therapy for minors, except in very rare cases, citing the need to exercise "caution". They have also just drastically restricted the use of breast removal for teenage girls.
In Finland, a similar decision was taken as early as 2020 on hormone therapy, while in France the Academy of Medicine called for "great medical caution" in the treatment of young patients and "the greatest reserve" on hormonal treatments.
Finally, the United Kingdom last month blocked a Scottish law on transgender rights, similar to that of Spain, adopted at the end of December by the Edinburgh parliament after heated debate. This episode weakened Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who announced her resignation on Wednesday, after a heated controversy arose from the incarceration in a women's prison of a transgender woman convicted of raping two women before her transition.
Fierce opposition from the right
In Spain, the "trans" law has drawn fierce opposition from the right. "We are not here to experiment with people... We see countries backtracking because they now see that they have rushed in, which has caused a lot of suffering. Let's not do the same," Popular Party MP Maria Jesus Moro insisted on Thursday.
But this text has also caused deep divisions within the left and the feminist movement, as the country prepares for general elections at the end of the year. The text has been ardently defended by Podemos and by Spain's largest LGBT organization, FELGBTI, which hopes, according to its president Uge Sangil, that this law will "encourage other countries to follow" the Spanish "example".
But other, dissonant voices have been heard on the left, with some feminists believing that the notion of gender self-determination jeopardizes decades of struggle for gender equality. "To claim gender as being above biological sex (...) seems to me to be a step backwards", denounced the former number two of the Sánchez government, Carmen Calvo.
The Socialists tried to amend the text to extend the obligation of a green light from justice to 14-16 year olds but did not find enough support in Parliament. “Opening that door” of gender transition “without any restrictions to children feels rushed to me” and “very dangerous,” commented Reem Alsalem, UN special rapporteur on violence against women, in an interview. Madrid daily El Mundo.
Vote for menstrual leave, a first in Europe
On the same day, the Spanish deputies voted definitively, by 185 votes against 154 and 3 abstentions, a law creating a "menstrual leave" for women suffering from painful periods, an unprecedented measure in Europe. "This is a historic day for feminist advances," Equality Minister Irene Montero, a member of Podemos, tweeted.
The duration of sick leave that doctors can grant to women suffering from painful menstruation has not been specified in the new law.