New Bill Would Expand Definitions of Mother and Father

Reykjavík baby

A new bill introduced by the Minister of Justice would redefine the legal definitions of ‘mother’ and ‘father’ and allow nonbinary individuals to register themselves simply as ‘parents’ if they prefer not to designate themselves a gendered parental role, RÚV reports.

The bill notes that unlike some countries around the world that compel trans people to be sterilized in order to achieve legal recognition of their gender, Iceland has no such requirement. As such, a trans man in Iceland may become pregnant and give birth to a child and a trans woman may beget a child. Per the proposed changes to the bill, parents who have legally changed their gender in the national registry will be recognized as ‘mother’ or ‘father’ in accordance with their legal gender. This would allow a child to have, for instance, two legal fathers or two legal mothers.

See Also: Iceland’s Gender Autonomy Act is a Step Forward for Trans and Intersex Rights 

Last June, Iceland passed the Gender Autonomy Act, which allows, among other things, for individuals to change their official gender according to their lived experience and register as neither male nor female (denoted with an “x” on documents). The new bill would therefore make it possible for a person to simply designate themselves as a child’s ‘parent’ in the national registry, rather than having to choose between being listed as the child’s mother or father.

Should the bill be passed, further changes would need to be made in accordance with the new definitions of the concept of ‘mother.’ Special rights currently afforded to mothers related to pregnancy and childbirth would also need to extend to those identifying as fathers or parents.

The bill would also update the current ‘pater est’ laws, which states that the man who a mother is either married to or cohabitating with is automatically considered a child’s father. Under the new provisions, this would be redefined as the ‘parens est’ principal: a child born to two cohabitating or married individuals would automatically be considered their child, and they the child’s parents. This would not apply, however, in the case of artificial insemination.

In the event that the parens est rule does not apply, the parental status of the cohabitating partner or spouse of a person who gave birth to a child would be determined according to paternal recognition provisions, which would be similar to the current provisions on paternity recognition. (See the current laws on maternity and paternity in Iceland, including paternity recognition, in English here.)

Low Border Infection Rate During Iceland’s ‘German and Danish Summer’

tourists on perlan

The rate of active COVID-19 infection diagnosed at the border is currently .04%, RÚV reports, or 39 active COVID-19 cases out of 86,000 tests that have been conducted for incoming air and ferry passengers since screenings were initiated on July 15.

In addition to the 39 active cases, 104 were found to have old infections and antibodies to the virus; there are three screenings whose results are still pending. There have also been 25,000 passengers arriving from ‘safe’ countries—Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Germany—who are exempted from COVID-19 border screenings and not included in the figures.

A lot more Danes, a lot fewer Americans

It’s been an unusual and very tourist-light summer in Iceland, with Danish and German nationals making up the majority of foreign travellers. Somewhat surprising is that while there’s been a significant decrease in the number of visitors from nine out the top ten countries whose residents typically visit Iceland, there was a substantial increase in the number of Danish tourists in July. Statistics published by the Iceland Tourist Board show a 32.7% increase, in fact, or 9,949 Danish visitors this July, versus 7,497 in July of last year. There was a 51.4% drop in the number of German tourists this summer, but Germans still account for the second-highest number of foreign visitors this July: 9,220 (versus 18,968 in July 2019). It is a significant jump then down to the third-largest group of foreign visitors this July; 3,181 Polish nationals visited last month, versus 10,429 in July 2019. “This is clearly the German and Danish summer,” noted Skarphéðinn Berg Steinarsson, director of the Icelandic Tourist Board.

Perhaps even more bracing are the figures for the tourists who aren’t visiting Iceland this year, particularly travellers from North America and Asia, which are both very important tourist bases for Iceland. For instance, 65,552 Americans visited Iceland last July; this year, only 362 did. Last July, 15,063 Chinese tourists visited, and 907 tourists from Japan; this July, only 136 Chinese tourists visited and only 15 from Japan. Overall, the visitor numbers are quite stark: there were 231,281 visitors total in July 2019, down to 45,614 in July 2020. (See the Icelandic Tourist Board’s full ‘2020 versus 2019’ tourist numbers here.)

Icelanders not travelling abroad this year

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed Icelanders’ travel habits, too, of course. There has been an almost 80% drop in Icelanders departing from the Keflavík airport this year. Last year, just over 60,000 Icelanders travelled abroad, this year, only 13,300.

There are some silver linings, however. Skarphéðinn Berg says that European tourists and Icelanders travelling domestically tend to spend more time further out in the countryside, and in less frequented parts of the country.


Unidentified Tone Torments Akureyri Residents

Akureyri in winter

A strange droning sound has been plaguing the residents of Akureyri, and not for the first time. RÚV reports that the origin of the noise still isn’t known, although locals have a number of theories and agree that the sound seems to be clearest downtown.

Music director of the Akureyri Cultural Association Þorvaldur Bjarni Þorvaldsson posted about the tormenting tone on Facebook on Monday, noting that he’d heard it as far back as 2014, and most clearly around downtown Akureyri. Þorvaldur said the sound had been particularly distinct on Saturday. The post drew a lot of interests from other locals, some of whom were particularly relieved that they weren’t the only ones who could hear the sound.

“I asked my wife if she heard the sound, and yeah, she hears it, too,” remarked organist Eyþór Ingi Jónsson. “I’d thought I’d been going kind of crazy lately—always hearing that tone.”

Musician Kristján Edelstein also weighed in. “It’s truly, indescribably irritating, that’s the only way to put it. This continuous droning that doesn’t change pitch. I don’t know, the only thing I do know is that I’ve hardly slept the last two nights and I’ve talked to a lot of people who all agree that it’s always the same tone.”

“There are theories, all sorts of theories,” he said. “Everything from ship spars to the Vaðlaheiði tunnel.”

The sound seems to be particularly noticeable around Akureyri Cathedral, although so far, attempts to record it have been unsuccessful.

Alfred Schiöth, the managing director of the Northeast Iceland Health Department, says the origin of the mysterious noise is being investigated. Alfred says the department welcomes tips and theories from residents. “If we get well-grounded suggestions,” he said, “it’ll be a big help to us.”