Germany plans to make legal gender change easier

The German government on Thursday unveiled plans to make it easier for trans people to officially change their first name and gender, acknowledging that existing legislation was outdated and "humiliating".

A participant holds a transgender flag at a demonstration in Hamburg on International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31st.
A participant holds a transgender flag at a demonstration in Hamburg on International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31st. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Georg Wendt

“The right to live a self-determined life is fundamental to all people,” Family Affairs Minister Lisa Paus told a Berlin press conference.

The proposed law would replace Germany’s 40-year “transsexual law” that requires people to go to court and provide two expert reports, usually from psychotherapists, before they can have the name and gender they identify with legally recognised.

Opponents have long called for the controversial legislation to be scrapped, with applicants complaining of the onerous administrative burden and invasive personal questions, including about past sexual behaviour.

Under the new “self-determination” law, it would suffice for an adult applicant to go to their local registry office and simply declare the change
they wish to make on official documents.

READ ALSO: Third gender option for birth certificates approved in Bundestag

Trans or non-binary people aged 14 and over would also be allowed to use the new, simpler procedure with permission from their parents or legal guardians.

The old procedure is “not just lengthy and expensive, but also deeply humiliating,” Paus said.

“We live in a free and diverse society that is already further along in many places than our laws are. It’s about time that we adapt the legal framework to societal reality,” she added.

Germany has lagged behind other European countries on the issue, with Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland already accepting a self-declaration to legally change gender status.

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said he expected the coalition government to approve the new legislation before the end of the year. It would then still need to go through parliament.

LGBTQ activists and human rights groups have repeatedly urged Germany to modernise the “transsexual law”, and even the country’s constitutional court has criticised aspects of it.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz from the Social Democrats, and his governing partners from the Green party and the liberal FDP promised to abolish the law in their coalition pact when they came to power last December.

Previous attempts to amend the “transsexual law” met with resistance from former chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc.

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How Merkel’s CDU plans for half of key party posts to be filled by women

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) is planning for equal representation of women within the party, according to sources. Here's how and why.

How Merkel's CDU plans for half of key party posts to be filled by women
Members of the CDU leadership including party chair Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (third left) and Chanceller Angela Merkel next to her in November 2019. Photo: DPA

After lengthy negotiations, a commission in the centre-right CDU has proposed that an equal number of women and men fill posts in the group's leadership by 2025.

The plan on the proportion of women in party offices and seats provides for a gradual increase in the quota for governing bodies starting at the regional level. On January 1st, 2021, a quota of 30 percent for women is to apply, and in January 2023 a quota of 40 percent is to be met. At the beginning of 2025, the quota for women will be 50 percent.

The compromise came after 11 hours of tough negotiations by the CDU's Structural and Statue Commission, said DPA on Wednesday.

It's not set in stone yet: the plans on the binding quota have to be approved at the CDU's federal party conference in Stuttgart, scheduled for early December.

READ ALSO: 'How much do you earn?' New law tackles gender pay gap

Why is the party proposing this?

Although the top two jobs are held by women (the party's current leader is Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Merkel is Germany's first female Chancellor), women make up only a quarter of CDU members. This is something the party leadership wants to change and hopes introducing a quota will help.

Other parties in Germany, such as the Left Party, the SPD and Greens, which is led by a woman and man team of Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck, already hold similar policies.

The CDU plans will include similar rules in composing its lists for elections to the state, national and European parliaments.

READ ALSO: More men named 'Hans' than women in top government jobs

A system will also be put in place so that local party groups can report on their progress in increasing their share of women members.

What does it mean?

If passed, the regulation will apply to group elections of board members, such as deputy chairpersons and committee members, but not to individual elections of chairpersons, member representatives or treasurers at federal level.

It would only be possible to deviate from the women's quota if not enough women apply.

The commission also proposes to introduce a “political parental leave” (politische Elternzeit).

Having children should not be a problem to political commitment, the commission said. At all levels, from the local association to the federal executive board, the proposal would allow for parents to suspend posts for up to a year and then resume the post.

According to the proposal, parents should only be able to be voted out of office by a two-thirds majority during this period.

Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

However, the plans are subject to approval at the CDU party conference. And there are already signs of resistance within the party against the idea which was put forward by CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

The CDU Economic Council questioned if a quota was needed given the strong representation of women at the top of the party.

“I wonder whether the CDU needs this debate on women's issues at all in view of a German Chancellor, an EU Commission President and currently still a party leader, as well as three out of five heads of its federal ministries in female hands,” the President of the CDU-affiliated association, Astrid Hamker, told newspaper the Passauer Neue Presse.

“To me, approaches such as that of Ms Merkel for the economy or that of Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer for the CDU seem rather over-motivated and unrealistic.”

Debate on status of CDU's lesbian and gay group

Part of Kramp-Karrenbauer's initiative is also a revaluation of the status of the Lesbian and Gay people in the Union (LSU) group. If the party leader gets her way, the LSU is to be put on an equal footing with the student union RCDS, which can introduce its own motions at party conventions.

However, the discussion about a clear status for the LSU was postponed to Wednesday morning after the debate during the night, DPA said.