Sweden is often thought of as a beacon of equality and a utopia of fairness and common sense. But for Icelandic married couple, Kristrún Stefánsdóttir and Inga Ósk Pétursdóttir this has not been their experience.
The pair met and married in Iceland and had been living as a family with their child, that Inga gave birth to, when they decided to move to Sweden to further Kristrún’s education in ophthalmology. They are legally married and both registered as their child’s parents in Iceland, however the Swedish system doesn’t acknowledge Kristrún’s rights as the child’s parent.
“When we moved we had to register our movement to the country and we gave all the papers we had,” says Kristrún. “Copies of our passports, birth certificates, our marriage certificate. Both our names are written on our daughter’s birth certificate, Inga as mother since she is her biological mother, and me as a parent.
In Sweden same sex couples who go through a private clinic or a clinic outside of Sweden when having a child, have to do an adoption. Since we don’t have to do that in Iceland, they did not accept our daughter’s birth certificate in Sweden.
“The woman simply answered: ‘You might be her parent in Iceland, but you are not her parent here’.”
When I spoke on the phone to a woman who worked at “Skatteverket” (as the Icelandic Þjóðskrá) and was arguing that she’s our daughter the woman simply answered: ‘You might be her parent in Iceland, but you are not her parent here’.
Now, three and a half years later, our daughter still only has one registered parent in Sweden.”
The family’s case highlights the inbuilt inequality and rigidity of systems that have not adapted to meet the needs or grant equal rights tosame sex parents and their children. The couple’s case is at best a mere reflection that bureaucratic system’s need to be updated to reflect modern families and at worst how explicit homophobia is denying LGBT people the same rights over their children as their straight counterparts automatically enjoy.
The couple have had to take their case through the three tier Swedish court system, to have both of them recognised legally as their child’s parents. They were offered the option for Kristrún to ‘adopt’ their child, but they felt that it was humiliating.
“When we got the offer that we could go through an adoption, for us that was never an option,” says Kristrún. “The adoption process we were offered to go through was a humiliation. Inga would have had to write a letter saying why I wanted to adopt, why I would be a good parent, and I would have to write a letter about the same thing. We would together, and separately, have to have meetings with the social services, and invite them to our home to see if they would find us, or more accurately, me to be fit as a parent.
“This particular adoption process we were offered to go through was a humiliation. Inga would have had to write a letter saying why I wanted to adopt, why I would be a good parent …”
So we appealed this to the court. There are three court systems in Sweden and we have won two of them, and are waiting for the third ruling. If we win that one, I will be registered as a parent and it will be a prerequisite for other families in the same situation.”
The couple say that this refusal of the Swedish authorities to recognise both of them as parents has a huge impact on their day to day lives but also makes them worry about the future should tragedy strike.
“Well, it has a great impact on our daughter,” says Inga. “What would happen for example if I died in an accident? We have been told our daughter could stay with Kristrún and she would be some sort of foster family. How completely absurd is that? It has caused a lot of anxiety, anger, tears and frustration,” she says and adds: “In a day to day sense, because Kristrún is not a registered parent she is not allowed to have access to apps and websites regarding our daughters school.”
Although the couple don’t feel any negativty towards them as a same sex parent family in Sweden, they believe that not being able to both register as parents is an infringement on their child’s rights.
“This whole thing is depriving a child of having a parent because of the parent’s sexuality,” says Inga and adds that it would mean the world to them, and not only to them but also their daughter if things changed. “Our life would be so much easier. Kristrún would rightfully have the same rights as me, but more importantly our daughter would have two registered parents and not only one.”
“This whole thing is depriving a child of having a parent because of the parent’s sexuality.”
Since the couple have been battling the courts, the regulation has changed as of the 1st of January 2019. Same sex couples who go through a private clinic in Sweden or in another country, and use a known donor, do not have to go through an adoption process
However Inga explains that although the regulation is positive, it doesn’t help their situation. “Since there is only one fertility clinic in Iceland, and not associated with the hospital it is private and therefore we still fall under the same category as those in Sweden who need to adopt.
This new regulation is very, very positive, but does not affect those who had children before it took effect. So the regulation has to change with regard to families who come to Sweden from other countries. We certainly hope we will win our case and it will help others in the same situation as us.”