The Netherlands hardens stance as transgender law voted down

Geert Wilders has so far failed to form a coalition government after his surprise election win last year
Geert Wilders has so far failed to form a coalition government after his surprise election win last year - John Beckmann/Orange Pictures/Shutterstock

A law to make it easier for teenagers to change the gender on their passport should be shelved, the Dutch parliament has said.

A majority of MPs in the lower house of the parliament backed a resolution calling on the government to ditch the so-called “transgender law”, which allows people under the age of 16 to change their gender legally on documents for the first time.

It also removes the requirement for people over 16 to have an expert’s statement before they can legally change their gender on passports, and on the registry of births, marriages and deaths.

The Netherlands currently has a caretaker government, which has been in place since the ruling coalition, which introduced the legislation three years ago,  collapsed in a row over migration last year.

The transgender law is among several that were voted too controversial for a caretaker administration to implement after the fall of the last government.

Geert Wilders, the Right-wing firebrand, won a surprise victory in the general election last November but has failed to form a coalition government in the months of negotiations since.

That has meant the caretaker government, essentially the last government but bound not to propose new laws, has remained in charge.

Some 73 MPs supported the motion to withdraw the transgender law, including Mr Wilders’ Freedom Party, the BBB farmers’ party and the “radical centrist” New Social Contract (NSC).

A recent survey revealed hardening attitudes towards transgender people in the Netherlands
A recent survey revealed hardening attitudes towards transgender people in the Netherlands - Charles M Vella/SOPA Images

Those three parties are in coalition talks with the pro-business VVD, which voted not to withdraw the bill and was the dominant party in the last government. Meanwhile, 70 MPs voted against ditching the bill.

The caretaker government will now have to decide what to do about the motion brought by NSC, which was formed just before the election, and the Reformed Political Party.

The outgoing minister in the caretaker government had called the motion “not proper” in a parliamentary debate last month.

“We are absolutely not against changing sex,”  Nicolien van Vroonhoven, the NSC MP who submitted the motion, said earlier this month.

“But it should not be too easy either. There are real risks to women’s safety. In England, for example, men are suddenly given access to women’s prisons, and that is not something we should want.”

The VVD said it had expressed concerns over the law but disagreed with bringing the motion at this stage.

Other MPs argued it would make more sense for the bill to be properly debated later and preferably when a new government was in place.

The vote comes after a survey in January revealed hardening attitudes towards transgender people in the Netherlands, which has traditionally been among the most liberal European countries on trans rights.

Only about a quarter agreed with the statement: “People should be able to change their passport from the age of 16 without a statement from an expert” in the last Dutch national voter survey.

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