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13 Oct, 2020 17:48

Gender & language spat in Germany after Justice Ministry drafts bill that uses only feminine endings

Gender & language spat in Germany after Justice Ministry drafts bill that uses only feminine endings

Germany’s Interior Ministry has demanded a bill drafted by the Justice Ministry that uses only feminine endings be revised over concerns the legislation might apply exclusively to women when brought into force.

Campaigners in the country have been demanding for years that the tradition of legal texts using the masculine versions of words to cover both men and women should be changed. They may finally be appeased with the appearance of a new draft law on insolvency and company restructuring which reverses the practice and uses feminine endings instead.

At least the legislation will kick off a discussion on gender-equal language in legal texts, Katja Mast of the Social Democrats (SPD) said, adding that “a ball has been set rolling.” The SPD is the party of Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, whose department drafted the bill.

However, the Interior Ministry demanded a revision of the bill on Monday. Spokesman Steve Alter said the main objection was that “the law potentially would only be valid for women, or for people of female gender, and so would very likely be unconstitutional.”

The use of a “generic feminine” to denote both men and women is not generally accepted by the public, he noted. In contrast, the masculine form “is recognized for people of both the male and female sex.”

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Commenting on the new legislation, Wolfgang Steiger, secretary of the ruling CDU party’s Economic Council, said that business people have no time for such “gimmicks.”

The Justice Ministry is not taking the legislation seriously, he told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper, noting that time is of the essence for a reformed insolvency law.

A Justice Ministry spokesman said all draft laws must “express gender equality in language,” according to legislative rules, but admitted that this version was “not yet finished” and would be revised before being submitted to the cabinet.

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