Denmark 2017/2018
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Denmark 2017/2018

The government annulled an agreement with UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, to accept refugees for resettlement. The classification of transgender identities as a “mental disorder” was ended.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Denmark failed to accept any refugees for resettlement. The government annulled its standing agreement with UNHCR to receive 500 refugees annually for resettlement. From January 2018, the government, not Parliament, will decide each year if Denmark is to accept refugees for resettlement.

Individuals granted subsidiary temporary protection status had to wait three years before being eligible to apply for family reunification. In May, the High Court of Eastern Denmark ruled that the postponement of family reunification of a Syrian refugee with his wife was not in violation of the right to family life under the European Convention on Human Rights. In November, the Supreme Court confirmed this ruling.

In January, the Supreme Court ruled that the compulsory overnight stay and twice daily reporting regime at a centre for individuals on “tolerated stay” (those excluded from protection but who could not be deported), constituted a disproportionate measure amounting to custody when extended beyond a period of four years. The government implemented the ruling, but also decided that any person leaving the centre to live with their family would lose their right to health care and financial assistance for food.

In March, the Parliamentary Ombudsman concluded that government policy to separate asylum-seeking couples when one partner was under the age of 18 was a violation of the Danish Act on Public Administration and possibly a violation of the right to family life. The policy did not provide for a process to determine whether the separation was in the interest of the younger spouse and did not consider their opinion.

Violence against women

In April, a proposal by the opposition to introduce a consent-based definition of rape, in line with the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) ratified by Denmark in 2014, was rejected in Parliament. In November, the Council of Europe's Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) encouraged the Danish authorities to change the current sexual violence legislation and base it on the notion of freely given consent as required by the Istanbul Convention.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

In January, Parliament’s landmark 2016 resolution to end the pathologization of transgender identities was implemented. However, existing procedural rules on access to hormone treatment and gender-affirming surgery continued to unreasonably prolong the gender recognition process for transgender people.

No national guidelines from the Danish Health Authority outlined how doctors should treat children with variations of sex characteristics and the approach was not human rights-based. This allowed non-emergency invasive and irreversible medical procedures to be carried out on children, typically under the age of 10, in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. These procedures can be carried out despite the lack of medical research to support the need for surgical intervention, and despite documentation of the risk of lifelong harmful effects.1 In October the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child raised concerns regarding surgical interventions on intersex children.

  1. Europe: First, do no harm − ensuring the rights of children with variations of sex characteristics in Denmark and Germany (EUR 01/6086/2017)

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