29 November 2021

Dutch government apologises to transgender and intersex community for law requiring sterilisation


We feel privileged that we have been able to assist the transgender and intersex community in obtaining an unprecedented public apology and financial compensation for the pain and suffering inflicted by the former Transgender Act.

Between 1985 and 2014, this legislation required transgender and intersex people to undergo surgery and sterilisation if they wanted to change their registered sex. They faced an impossible choice: invasive surgery and never having children, or being denied legal recognition of their sex.

Supported by De Brauw's pro bono team, a coalition of individuals affected by the Transgender Act and interest groups Bureau Clara Wichmann, Transgender Network Netherlands and the Netherlands Organisation for Sex Diversity held the Dutch State liable for the harm caused and entered into talks leading to this historic moment.

During an emotional ceremony in The Hague's Hall of Knights on Saturday, the Minister for Emancipation, Ingrid van Engelshoven, officially apologised on behalf of the whole cabinet for the pain and injustice inflicted by these "degrading" and "unimaginable" requirements. "None of you should have gone through what you have, and for that I am truly sorry", she said.

Tristan Peters and Mira Smulders, representing the De Brauw team, describe the ceremony: "After the Minister's words, you could feel profound, silent emotion fill the historic hall. We thought about what this meant to our clients. To Willemijn van Kempen, who courageously brought together our coalition and tirelessly fought for this moment. To the poet who had just recited a conversation with the child he never had. To the woman who passed away before hearing this apology."

We feel honoured to have been given the opportunity to support the coalition, and incredibly proud of our team's role in achieving this result.

The De Brauw team included: Machteld de Monchy, Tristan Peters, Mira Smulders, Ingeborg Braam and Roos de Blécourt.