The Dutch government on Saturday publicly apologized for a now-defunct law that required transgender people who wished to change the gender on their birth certificates to undergo surgery and sterilization.
“For decades, people underwent medical procedures that they did not want at all. But they knew they had no other choice,” said Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven in a speech at the country's parliamentary complex. “Others have waited because of this law; they were forced to postpone becoming themselves for years.”
"This law has been a symbol of social rejection for many," she added.
She also apologized for the law, which was discarded in 2014 after being in effect for three decades.
“Nobody should have experienced what you have experienced," she said. "I am truly sorry that it happened.”
Van Engelshoven added that “standards about what a body should look like do not belong in a law and a law should never force people to undergo an operation."
“Beste mensen,— Ingrid van Engelshoven (@ivanengelshoven) November 27, 2021
Niemand van jullie had moeten meemaken wat jullie hebben meegemaakt.
En het spijt me diep dat dit toch zo is geweest.” Met deze woorden sloot ik mijn excuses vandaag af. https://t.co/4bU6kMqACF
Sander Dekker, the Dutch minister for legal protection, also apologized for the law.
"In the conversations I've had with transgender people, they told me how this old legislation has forced life choices," he said. "Life choices that every person should be able to make freely, such as the possibility of having children."
Transgender Network Nederland welcomed the apology, saying that hundreds of people had been “faced with an impossible choice" under the law in question.
"They could indeed choose for papers that aligned with their gender identity, but for a price that was far too high,” it wrote.
The group also noted that the Netherlands is the first country to apologize for a policy of this kind.
Willemijn van Kempen, a Dutch trans woman who began campaigning for the government to make such a statement in 2019, said transgender people were "wronged greatly."
"It is important that it [the Dutch government] now apologizes,” she said.