Law and Reality

Now more than ever!

»Men and women are equal« – the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender has been enshrined in the German Basic Law since 1949. The ban on differentiation eliminated legal norms that favor OR disadvantage people based on their gender; so far, so good. However, in addition to the explicit reference to gender, there is also indirect discrimination against women and non-men, which is much more difficult to identify and eliminate. These systemic structural disadvantages are deeply ingrained as our societal norms, framework conditions, and procedures. Phenomena such as the gender pay gap, the gender care gap, or the underrepresentation of women and non-men in leadership positions starkly illuminates this.

Ergo, equality is not a legal formality but merely a social characteristic of everyday life. This fact is also recognized by the constitution and legislators: The 1994 constitutional reform obligates the state in Article 3 (2) sentence 1 of the Basic Law to actively enforce the actual equality of women and men in all areas of society – and yet, 27 years later, we are still a long way from reaching our goal.

In our quiz we look at the past, the present, and the possible future of equality in law while reviewing the gaps that still exists between the law and reality.

Gender Equality Quiz


Today, we take for granted that women can vote and work without their husband’s permission; it wasn’t always that way.

Which developments were triggered by the introduction of the equal rights requirement?

Until 1957, the family law of the BGB applied in its original version from 1900. The “obedience paragraph” gave the husband the right to decide all matters concerning marital life. The Equal Rights Act of 1957 eliminated only some of the discriminatory provisions. It was not until the 1977 reform of marriage and family law that the so-called “housewife marriage” was also overcome.

Since when is marital rape a criminal offense?

Up until July 4th 1997 marital rape could only be punished as coercion or bodily harm. Even this was not always the case. For example, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe speaks of “marital duties” in a ruling from 1966: It is not sufficient if the wife lets the sex happen apathetically, she must also not show indifference or reluctance.

How many fathers made use of the option to take paternity leave in 2020?

The Federal Parental Allowance Act gives parents the option of parental leave from a minimum of 2 months up to a maximum of 14 months. In 2020, 462,300 fathers did so, meaning that one in four parental leave recipients were male. In 2015, it was still one in five. In 2020, however, 3 out of 4 fathers only received parental leave for the minimum period of 2 months. By comparison, 62% of mothers applied for parental leave for a period of 10-12 months.

Gender Equality Quiz


We’ve come a long way. What is the state of equal opportunities now, in 2021, and the legal framework for achieving them?

What legal provisions for achieving equality are stated in the Federal Equality Act that are applicable to the federal administration?

In addition to the appointment of equal opportunity officers and the implementation of equal opportunity policies, it provides for a qualification-based decision-making quota: Women are to be given primary consideration in areas in which they are underrepresented if they have the same qualifications, unless there are overriding factors of marginalization in the person of a male competitor.

According to the Anti-Discrimination Act (AGG), what is gender-based indirect discrimination?

Indirect discrimination arises from seemingly neutral regulations that put certain groups at a disadvantage. Such an outcome could exist, for example, if part-time employees are placed in less desirable positions by certain regulations than full-time employees, but most part-time employees are women.

What are the obstacles to the equality for women in German tax law?

Marital splitting continues to provide incentives for the single-earner model. This no longer corresponds to the social norm, thus promoting stereotypical gender roles. It is often criticized that the motivation for an independent occupation of the lower-income partner, often the wife, is thereby thwarted and the latter is made economically dependent.

Gender Equality Quiz


The future is yet to be written. The forecast oscillates between backlash and hope. Where will the journey of gender equality go? The reality is that there is still extensive work needed in order to achieve these goals.

What policies does the DF propose regarding sexual and reproductive rights?

In its demands for the 2021 federal election, the DF calls for the abolition of §219a StGB. Women should be able to obtain unrestricted information about legal abortions as well as selecting a doctor of their preference. All women and assigned-female-at-birth individuals must also have access to free contraceptives. A significant portion of the women’s movement is also calling for a regulation of abortion outside the criminal code, because abortions are still illegal in Germany today, but are exempt from punishment under certain conditions (within the first 12 weeks with mandatory counseling and a 3-day reflection period).

In the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, the World Economic Forum calculated when gender equality could be achieved worldwide. How many years are we talking about?

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report examines four different gender gaps: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health care, and political participation. The result: equality between men and women worldwide could be achieved in 135.6 years. The Corona pandemic had a devastating impact on equality in 2020 and 2021.

How many companies are affected by the just renewed law on management positions?

Currently 66 companies in Germany. The FüPoG II, which came into force in August 2021, stipulates among other things that listed companies and companies with equal codetermination with more than 2,000 employees and more than three people on the board must have at least one female board member. To date, 24 of these companies have no women at all on the board.

Further information

The federal election is just around the corner and new alliances will be forged at the end of September. What do we want a gender-equal future to look like? Who is promising and how and where is the journey going?

The following links are various resources where you can find information pertaining to gender equality in view of the 2021 Bundestag elections.

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