Sterilization legislation in Denmark was enacted June 1, 1929, after little debate and opposition. Denmark is (arguably) the first European country to enact sterilization legislation, but may technically be the second; the Canton Vaud of Switzerland established sterilization laws earlier in 1929 (Wildenskov, 1932). The first commission to consider sterilization was established after the accession of the first labour government in 1924, with K.K. Stiencke, minister of justice and later of social affairs, leading the effort (Broberg & Roll-Hansen, 2005).
A new law was enacted in 1934, which included the sterilization of the mentally ill and of minors (Broberg, 1996). Approximately 11,000 people were sterilized between 1929 and 1967, when legislation for compulsory sterilization was eliminated. Sterilizations declined rapidly in the mid-1940s to 1950s, however, in the aftermath of World War II (Broberg & Roll-Hansen, 2005). In 1997, the government of Denmark began an official investigation of the sterilization law (Jan M. Olsen, 1997). The results of this investigation are unknown, as well as any resulting compensation.
The sterilizations that occurred in Denmark are more closely associated with European eugenics movements of the 20th century, rather than the North American movements. However, sterilization and eugenics were founded similar principles across world.
-Laura Shaw and Erna Kurbegovic
Broberg, G. (1996). Eugenics and the welfare state sterilization policy in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. East Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=22830
Olsen, J.M. (1997, August 29). Denmark to investigate its involuntary sterilization program. Associated Press. Retrieved from http://www.apnewsarchive.com/1997/Denmark-to-investigate-its-involuntary-sterilization-program/id-e1731db26be41810f79e7e148d087a04
Wildenskov, H. O. (1932). Sterilization in Denmark. The Eugenics Review, 23(4), 311–313.
Broberg, G., & Roll-Hansen, N. (Eds.). (2005). Eugenics and the Welfare State; Sterilization Policy in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.