Germany to reform sex laws

Issue 

During the recent coalition negotiations between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), one of the demands made by the FDP — and agreed to by the conservative parties — was that Paragraph 175 in the West German penal code be rescinded.

The paragraph makes homosexual relations between male partners subject to prosecution if one of the partners is under 18 years of age. More than 500 arrests under paragraph 175 are made annually, and some 120 sentences are passed, according to Martin Dannecker, a Frankfurt researcher on sexuality.

The decision was heralded as a victory by the German Gay Union (SVD). A representative of the group, Manfred Bruns, called it a "long overdue equalising of homo- and heterosexuality in the eyes of the law" and said that this should be followed by "gay civil rights", such as legal recognition of long-term relationships.

Paragraph 175 is currently in effect only in the former West Germany. The German Democratic Republic liberalised its law in 1988. That law, which is still in effect in the former GDR, outlaws sexual relations with juveniles under 16.

Ministry of Justice spokesperson Juergen Schmid said that the coalition had also agreed to dispense with paragraph 182, which criminalises sexual relations with a girl under 16 years of age. Both paragraphs will be rolled into one law to protect all juveniles under 16. Penalties which now apply only to men will apply to both women and men. The SVD called for a protective law in which offenders were liable only if proceedings were begun by the injured party. Under both the current law and the planned law, the offence must be prosecuted even if the juvenile does not wish it.

In a related issue, some members of the FDP in the Bundestag, most prominently deputy chair Gerhart Baum and the new minister for regional planning and urban development, Ingrid Adam-Schwaetzer, had wanted to create a new statute criminalising marital rape, but negotiations on this point were unsuccessful, with strong opposition coming from the CSU. CSU member Fritz Wittmann said that this would lead to an increase in "justified" abortions, because the law allows abortions in case of rape. — Christic Institute/PEGASUS

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