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Iceland Falls Behind in Queer Rights

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Iceland Falls Behind in Queer Rights

MR Stairs Pride

Photo: Ian Funk.

Iceland has fallen behind its neighbouring countries when it comes to queer rights, according to ILGA-Europe, partly due to a lack of comprehensive equal rights legislation. A bill addressing the issue has been in preparation for two years, RÚV reports. Iðunn Garðarsdóttir, assistant to Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir, says the bill falls under several government ministries, and which ministry should put forth the bill is yet to be decided.

The chairmen of Samtökin ’78 (The National Queer Organization), Intersex Iceland, and Trans Iceland took part in drafting the bill. “Iceland has fallen back and is now in a similar place as Hungary, Slovenia, and Greece when it comes to queer people’s rights,” stated Daníel E. Arnarsson, director of Samtök ’78. He points out that Iceland fulfills 47 percent of the requirements ILGA-Europe measures. Norway meets 78 percent of ILGA-Europe’s requirements and is the Nordic country where queer people exercise the most rights. According to ILGA-Europe, Malta is the global leader in queer rights, fulfilling 88 percent of the organizations requirements.

Daniel states the most urgent issue is improving the rights of trans and intersex people in Iceland. “A person has to be diagnosed as mentally ill in order to begin the process of changing their sex. And then they have to live as the gender they identify as for a year before the gender correction process begins. As far as intersex people are concerned, doctors can still today perform surgery on infants which is unnecessary. That can have negative effects in the future,” he states.

Icelanders can only be registered as male or female in the National Register. Daniel states it is urgent to change this for people who identify as neither sex.

According to Iðunn, one reason Iceland has dropped down the list when it comes to queer rights is a lack of comprehensive equal rights legislation. Once the proposed bill is made law, Iceland’s position will improve substantially. “The government wants to bring Iceland to the forefront in the issues of queer people and improved legislation on the rights of queer people is one step in that direction. In a proposed bill on the rights of queer people it states among other things that individuals can decide their gender, that their gender identity be recognized, individuals also have physical safety and equal rights under law regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, sexuality, or gender expression,” she says.

Daniel states the bill neglects to improve the situation of queer asylum seekers in Iceland, which he considers very bad. There have been cases of queer asylum seekers in Iceland being assigned to a room with men from the same region, where the punishment for homosexuality is a death sentence.

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