Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and provides penalties of up to 15 years in prison.
On July 7, the Bundestag passed a law that implemented a “no means no” rule: If the nonconsent of the victim is apparent and the perpetrator overrides this will, the act is defined as rape. The Bundestag also approved a change of the criminal code to include a provision on offenses committed by groups. Possible penalties are a fine or up to two-years’ imprisonment.
Officials may temporarily deny abusers access to the household without a court order, put them under a restraining order, or in severe cases prosecute them for assault or rape and require them to pay damages. Penalties depend on the nature of the case. The government enforced the law.
The government devoted considerable personnel and financial resources to the problem. Approximately 12,000 to 13,000 cases of sexual violence are reported annually to the police. According to the Federal Office for Family and Civic Tasks, approximately every fourth woman between ages 16 and 85 has been a victim of domestic violence at least once in her life.
According to the Federal Criminal Police Office, 127,457 persons in relationships were targets of murder, bodily harm, rape, sexual assault, threats and stalking in 2015. Approximately 82 percent–or more than 104,000–of these were women.
The federal government, the states, and NGOs supported numerous projects to deal with gender-based violence, both to prevent it and to give victims greater access to medical care and legal assistance.
During the year approximately 350 women’s shelters operated. According to the NGO Central Information Agency of Autonomous Women’s Homes (ZIF), an estimated 18,000 women, plus their children, used the shelters annually. ZIF reported accessibility problems, especially in bigger cities, as women who found refuge in a shelter tended to stay there longer than needed because they could not find an apartment due to a lack of available and affordable housing. No statistics indicated refugee women contributed to this shortage of available spaces, but ZIF stated the number of refugee women seeking protection in shelters rose since the fall of 2015. Since asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants are not eligible for social welfare benefits while their applications for asylum are under review, cost is another obstacle refugee women face in finding a place to live in a shelter.
The national 24-hour hotline of the Federal Office for Family and Civic Tasks had a staff of 60 persons who provided counseling to affected women in 15 languages. In 2015 the hotline was contacted 55,000 times and provided 27,000 counseling sessions. Many NGOs at the local level also provided hotlines, assistance, advice, and shelter.
During the year the NRW state government approved the continuation of 900,000 euros ($990,000) in funding to provide counseling and support for traumatized refugee survivors of violence. Implementation of the program is in cooperation with regional associations.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C of women and girls is a criminal offense punishable by one to 15 years in prison. FGM/C affected segments of the immigrant population and their German-born children, but official statistics were limited.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Forced marriages are illegal, invalid, and punishable by up to five-years’ imprisonment. There were no reliable statistics on the number of forced marriages. Papatya, a Berlin-based NGO that supports migrant and post-migrant female victims of domestic violence or forced marriage, stated that the problem was more prevalent in the Muslim and Yazidi communities than in the general population. Forced marriages reportedly often led to violence. Victims included women and in some cases men whose families arranged for them to acquire spouses from abroad. Some families also sent women to other countries to marry against their will.
A representative from Papatya recounted cases where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs helped victims of forced marriage to return to the country. Some cases included girls who held dual citizenship in Germany and the country to which they were sent for a forced marriage. In these cases German authorities have no power to return victims to Germany from a country in which the victim holds citizenship.
The law criminalizes “honor killings” as murder and provides penalties that include life in prison. The government enforced the law effectively.
In June the court proceedings regarding the death of 35-year-old Hanaa S. began in Wuppertal, NRW. Authorities believed the Iraqi-Yazidi was the victim of an honor killing carried out by five of her relatives after she left her husband in 2014 and moved in with another man.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment of women was a recognized problem. It is prohibited by law. On June 7, the Bundestag approved a change of the criminal code to include a provision on sexual harassment. The law requires employers to protect employees from sexual harassment. Various disciplinary measures against harassment in the workplace were available, including dismissal of the perpetrator. The law considers an employer’s failure to take measures to protect employees from sexual harassment to be a breach of contract, and an affected employee has the right to paid leave until the employer rectifies the problem. According to a 2015 study conducted by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, more than 50 percent of all employees either experienced or witnessed sexual harassment at work. Of the sample, 81 percent were unaware of the employer’s duty to protect them proactively from sexual harassment at work, and more than 70 percent did not know a contact person for this problem in their company. Unions, churches, government agencies, and NGOs operated a variety of support programs for women who experienced sexual harassment and sponsored seminars and training to prevent it.
On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2015, widespread assaults on women caused a public outcry. The attacks occurred primarily in Cologne but also happened in other NRW cities such as Duesseldorf, Dortmund, and Bielefeld. According to the NRW Interior Ministry, as of March 30, there were reports of 1,200 separate criminal acts in Cologne alone. As of October 7, the Cologne local court concluded 19 trials related to the attacks. It convicted 20 defendants of theft, one for sexual assault, and one for sexual insult. Of these 22 suspects, 10 held Algerian citizenship, nine Moroccan, one Iraqi, one Libyan, and one Tunisian. Sentences ranged from a 480-euro ($528) fine to 20 months in prison. In February the NRW state parliament formed a special investigatory committee regarding the attacks which continued at year’s end.
In Hamburg more than 300 women reported being sexually harassed or assaulted while celebrating New Year’s Eve 2015. On January 14, police announced that, of 195 complaints received, they had identified eight suspects. In at least one case, authorities initiated legal proceedings against a suspect, but concluded no successful prosecutions by year’s end.
In response the Bundestag also changed the criminal code to include a provision on sexual harassment and on offenses committed by groups. Committing such an offense could potentially affect a noncitizen’s chances of obtaining a residence permit.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.
Discrimination: Men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights under the constitution, including in family, labor, religious, personal status, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The law provides for equal pay for equal work. Women were underrepresented in highly paid managerial positions and overrepresented in some lower-wage occupations (see section 7.d.).
In July a fourth woman was appointed judge to the second of two chambers of the Federal Constitutional Court that now has a 50-50 male-female ratio. The first chamber consisted of six men and two women.
Birth Registration: In most cases persons derive citizenship from their parents, but the law also allows citizenship based on birth in the country if one parent has been a resident for at least eight years or has had a permanent residence permit for at least three years. Parents or guardians have the responsibility to apply for registration for newborn children. Once officials receive registration applications, they generally process them expeditiously. Parents who fail to register their child’s birth may be subject to a fine.
Child Abuse: There were reported incidents of child abuse. The Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women, and Youth sponsored a number of programs throughout the year on the prevention of child abuse. The ministry sought to create networks among parents, youth services, schools, pediatricians, and courts and to support existing programs at the state and local level. Other programs provided therapy and support for adult and youth victims of sexual abuse. The Early Help program created and expanded networks to support first-time parents facing social and economic challenges. In May the federal government installed an independent commission consisting of seven members to look into cases of child abuse. Both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches announced their cooperation with the commission.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. Forced marriages are invalid and illegal and are punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years. According to BKA statistics, there were 50 reported forced marriages; however, many cases went unreported and unrecorded.
Child and forced marriage affected mostly girls. The media reported that more than 1,400 cases of child marriage were registered with authorities and that more than 1,100 were girls. Nearly half of the cases reported involved nationals from Syria; other countries of origin were Iraq, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and Greece. State authorities considered these girls unaccompanied minors who are required to enter the care of the Child Welfare Office and to be separated from their husbands. Some NGOs criticized this practice as not necessarily supportive of the women concerned, arguing that an individual examination of cases would be more effective than the application of a standard procedure.
The Higher Regional Court in Bamberg, Bavaria, accepted the marriage between a 15-year old Syrian girl and her 21-year-old cousin because it found no signs of forced marriage in this specific case, and ruled that the girl herself should be able to decide on her contact with her husband.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information for girls younger than 18 in the section on women above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penalty for rape–up to 15 years in prison–also applies to the rape of children. Consensual sex is legal from age 14 in most cases. There is an exception if the older partner is older than 18 and is “exploiting a coercive situation” or offering compensation and the younger partner is under 16. It is also illegal for a person age 21 or older to have sex with a child under age 16 if the older person “exploits the victim’s lack of capacity for sexual self-determination.” In 2015 according to the BKA, almost 14,000 cases of sexual abuse against children were reported. The BKA stated that many cases were unreported. The government’s Independent Commissioner for Child Sex Abuse Issues offered a sexual abuse help online portal and an anonymous helpline on sexual abuse that was free of charge.
Possession of or attempts to acquire any material reflecting a true or realistic incident of child pornography is punishable by imprisonment from three months to five years. According to criminal statistics published by the BKA, in 2015 there were 6,560 cases involving the distribution of child pornography, and ownership and procurement of child pornography.
Displaced Children: There were no reliable statistics on the number of street children. Some observers indicated that there were several thousand, but authorities contended that such estimates were inflated and not a true representation of the often temporary status of homeless children. Authorities believed these children were frequently fleeing violent and abusive homes. Street children often turned to prostitution for income.
As of July the media reported that around 9,000 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants were not accounted for. According to the Interior Ministry and the NGO Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees (BumF), many of these minors moved on to relatives in the country and abroad. BumF stated that some unaccompanied minors may have become victims of human trafficking.
According to the year’s estimates by Off Road Kids, an NGO active nationwide in street social work in major cities, there were up to 2,500 runaways per year under age 18. Of these, more than 300 ended up living on the streets.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
Observers estimated the country’s Jewish population to be almost 250,000, of whom an estimated 90 percent were from the former Soviet Union. There were 110,000 registered Jewish community members. Manifestations of anti-Semitism, including physical and verbal attacks, occurred at public demonstrations, sporting and social events, and in certain media. Apart from anti-Semitic speech, desecration of cemeteries and Holocaust monuments represented the most widespread anti-Semitic acts. The federal government attributed most anti-Semitic acts to neo-Nazi or other right-wing extremist groups or persons. Jewish organizations also noted an increase of anti-Semitic attitudes among some Muslim youth.
The FOPC’s annual report stated that the number of right-wing and violent anti-Semitic incidents declined from 31 in 2014 to 29 in 2015. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, unknown perpetrators knocked down six gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in the town of Kropelin, near Rostock. On about February 2, vandals in Berlin defaced with gray paint “stumbling block” memorials, small brass blocks set into sidewalks marking the last home of Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
The FOPC noted that membership in skinhead and neo-Nazi groups remained steady at approximately 6,000 persons. Federal prosecutors brought charges against suspects and maintained permanent security measures around many synagogues.
In February a local appeals court affirmed that the action of two men who threw Molotov cocktails at the main synagogue in Wuppertal was “anti-Israeli” and not “anti-Semitic.” Nevertheless, the unsuccessful appeal led to an increase in the probationary sentences to two years and one year and 11 months for the two attackers.
On February 7, Peter Schmalenbach, a board member of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and a resident of Neuwied in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, posted anti-Semitic slogans on his Facebook page. He removed the Facebook post shortly thereafter.
On July 5, the AfD caucus in the Baden-Wuerttemberg state parliament split into two caucuses after AfD Deputy Wolfgang Gedeon refused to dissociate himself from his anti-Semitic publications. Gedeon was accused of trivializing the Holocaust in several of his publications. The two caucuses reunited in October.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, the judicial system, and the provision of other federal government services, including access to air travel and other transportation. The law makes no specific mention of the rights of persons with sensory or intellectual disabilities, but their rights are considered included under the other headings. NGOs disagreed on the effectiveness of government enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, and the government expressed interest in learning ways to improve its effectiveness.
Persons with disabilities faced particular difficulties finding housing. The country’s approximately 500,000 children with disabilities attended school. Some persons with disabilities attended special schools, which officials contended were often better equipped to take care of such students. Some observers asserted that these institutions prevented the full integration of children with disabilities into the professional world and society as a whole.
On July 19, an amendment to the federal Act on Equal Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities mandates that federal buildings and the webpages of federal authorities be gradually made more accessible to persons with disabilities; establishes an arbitration body with the federal Commissioner for Matters relating to Disabled Persons; and provides financial support for disability associations from the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Disability NGOs criticized that the new law because its accessibility demands cover only federal buildings and do not extend to local job centers, youth welfare offices, and private buildings.
Progress in improving access to public buildings and transportation and integrating students with disabilities into regular schools varied from region to region. Access for persons with disabilities to public transportation in rural areas was limited.
Harassment of foreigners and members of racial minorities remained a problem throughout the country. Hostility focused on the increasing number of asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants from the Middle East and Africa.
The annual FOPC report for 2015 described 918 of the 1,485 violent “politically motivated crimes” with “right-wing extremist backgrounds” as xenophobic.
PEGIDA declined in strength. On average, only approximately 2000 demonstrators attended PEGIDA rallies in Dresden during the first half year of the year. This represented a significant decrease in PEGIDA support as compared with 2015.
On April 28, the Duesseldorf Local Court sentenced Melanie Dittmer, right-wing organizer of the Duesseldorf chapter of PEGIDA (Duegida), to eight months of probation for incitement, insult, and impeding the freedom of religion. Two Duegida marches in February and March 2015 interfered with a mosque’s evening prayer. Dittmer was also responsible for the creation of the PEGIDA offshoots in Cologne and Bonn. Previously she worked in the NPD’s youth organization in NRW and contributed to neo-Nazi publications.
Persons of foreign origin faced particular difficulties finding housing. FADA reported cases of landlords denying rental apartments to persons of non-ethnic-German origin, particularly of Turkish and African origin, saying that the neighborhood’s population was majority ethnic German.
In July the Turkish Bil-School, a Gulen-affiliated institution in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt (Baden-Wuerttemberg), requested police protection after being threatened by individuals or groups claiming to be supporters of Turkish President Erdogan.
In May the NRW Ministry of Family Affairs, Children, Youth, and Culture announced an action plan to counter right-wing extremism by strengthening 166 mostly local programs. The plan increased the funding for anti-right-wing efforts by two million euros ($2.2 million) to 3.15 million euros ($3.47 million) annually.
In March 2015 the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that a headscarf ban for teachers at public schools is a violation of the right to freedom of religion. In August, Elisabeth Herzog-von der Heide, the mayor of Luckenwalde in the state of Brandenburg, terminated a woman’s internship because she refused to remove her headscarf while working in the city hall. According to the mayor, the wearing of a headscarf in the city hall was a violation of the constitutional neutrality law.
The Berlin-based Network against Discrimination and Islamophobia reported cases of discrimination during job interviews. It reported a teacher was rejected from a position at a Berlin elementary school because of the Berlin neutrality law that prohibits public employees from wearing headscarves, and her case went to court. Her case led other women to report their cases.
Media reported in June that a public pool in Neustraubling in Bavaria banned swimmers from wearing burqinis. City councils in other cities, including Konstanz and Munich, publicly declared that burqinis were allowed.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. When registering the birth of a child, parents may check a blank box for the gender of an intersex child.
There were no official statistics on mistreatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; the availability of NGO reports on the incidence of such mistreatment varied widely in different parts of the country, although some quantitative data was available for cities with large populations of LGBTI persons. In 2015 there were 259 assaults in Berlin motivated by bias against LGBTI persons, according to the NGO Maneo. Insults accounted for 23 percent of the cases reported, injury for 29 percent, and coercion and threat for 22 percent.
In January the Protestant Church for the Rhine area began offering church weddings for same-sex couples living in a registered partnership.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The NGO German AIDS Foundation reported that societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS ranged from isolation and negative comments from acquaintances, family, and friends to bullying at work and denial of service at medical facilities (see section 7.d.). A domestic AIDS service NGO criticized authorities in Bavaria for their continued practice of mandatory HIV testing for asylum seekers.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
There were increasing instances of actual or attempted mob violence against asylum seekers, refugees and, migrants, and persons perceived as Muslims in some parts of the country (see section 2.d.) and against Muslims (see section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities).
In 2014 a self-declared “Sharia Police” group staged patrols in Wuppertal, NRW, to counter “non-Muslim behavior,” including alcohol consumption, gambling, and smoking and to pressure youth to convert to Islam. In December 2015 the Wuppertal local court ruled that the men did not violate a ban on wearing uniforms. In May 2016 the Duesseldorf Higher Regional Court overruled this decision and allowed the prosecution of eight members of the “Sharia Police.” On November 21, the local court in Wuppertal, NRW, acquitted seven of the members. Proceedings for the eighth member of the group were suspended, pending a separate trial in which he was a defendant on an unrelated terrorism charge.
On September 27, two homemade bombs exploded in Dresden at the door of a mosque and near the International Conference Center. There were no injuries. At year’s end police were investigating the incidents.