Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and provides penalties of up to 15 years in prison.
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.
Approximately 12,000 to 13,000 cases of sexual violence are reported annually to police. According to the Federal Office for Family and Civic Duties, approximately one in four women between the ages of 16 and 85 has been a victim of domestic violence at least once in her life.
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 throughout the country. The NGO Central Information Agency of Autonomous Women’s Homes (ZIF) reported accessibility problems, especially in bigger cities, because women who found refuge in a shelter tended to stay there longer due to a lack of available and affordable housing. ZIF stated the number of refugee women seeking protection in shelters rose since the refugee influx in 2015.
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. In February the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth estimated in a study that 50,000 women in the country were victims of FGM. The study further stated that this number reflected an increase of one-third compared with 2014 and traced the increase to the number of refugees coming from Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia, Egypt, and Ethiopia. A working group under the leadership of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth worked with other federal government bodies and all 16 states to combat FGM.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law criminalizes “honor killings” as murder and provides penalties that include life in prison. The government enforced the law effectively.
Court proceedings continued in Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia, regarding the suspected honor killing of a 35-year-old Iraqi Yazidi woman, Hanaa S. In June the woman’s brother-in-law confessed to kidnapping and killing her. The government financed various projects that aim to tackle this problem.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment of women was a recognized problem and prohibited by law. 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. 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.
In July police in Schorndorf, Baden-Wuerttemberg, recorded nine cases of sexual assault during a public festival. While three of those cases could not be substantiated, local police and Stuttgart prosecutors continued investigating sexual harassment allegations against four unknown and two known suspects.
As of August the state attorney in Hamburg initiated 245 prosecutions related to charges of 400 women being sexually harassed or assaulted during New Year’s Eve celebrations in 2015 in Hamburg. During New Year’s Eve of 2016, with increased police presence, there were 14 reports of sexual harassment. Police identified 10 suspects.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: Men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights under the constitution, including under 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.).
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.
Early and Forced Marriage: Forced marriages are illegal, invalid, and punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. There were no reliable statistics on the number of forced marriages. The legal minimum age for marriage is 18.
In July parliament passed a law that declared marriages involving minors unlawful and prohibited such marriages. Prior to the new law, 16-year-old children could marry under certain circumstances. The new law also invalidates foreign underage marriages that were legal in the country in which they were officiated.
Child and forced marriage affected mostly girls. Media reported that during the year more than 1,400 cases of child marriage involving more than 1,100 girls were registered with authorities. Nearly one-half of the cases reported involved nationals from Syria; other countries of origin were Iraq, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and Greece.
In June a 17-year-old Iraqi girl in Selm, North Rhine-Westphalia, who disagreed with the marriage her parents arranged for her, escaped her family’s apartment. According to media, her father found her, beat her in public, and threatened to take her to Iraq if she did not marry the groom. The girl called the police, and a local youth welfare office provided her protected relocation and refuge. Police investigated her parents for bodily injury, threat, and attempted forced marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penalty for rape of adults–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 who is 21 or older to have sex with a child under 16 if the older person “exploits the victim’s lack of capacity for sexual self-determination.” The government’s Independent Commissioner for Child Sex Abuse Issues offered a sexual abuse help online portal and an anonymous telephone helpline free of charge.
Possession of or attempts to acquire any material “reflecting a true or realistic incident of child pornography” is punishable by three months to five years in prison.
In August a court in Krefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia, allowed the extradition to Chile of a 73-year-old physician associated with Colonia Dignidad, a group which the foreign ministry called “a German sect in Chile, in which… children were systematically sexually abused.” He fled to Germany after being sentenced in Chile to five years in prison in 2011 for aiding the sexual abuse of children.
Displaced Children: Media reported that authorities could not account for the whereabouts of approximately 8,000 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants. According to the NGO Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees (BumF), many of these minors moved on to join relatives in the country and abroad. BumF also stated some unaccompanied minors might have become victims of human trafficking. Authorities were working to improve their ability to track these missing children. For more information, please see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt.
According to the year’s estimates by the NGO Off Road Kids, there were up to 2,500 runaways under the age of 18. Off Road Kids reported most runaways did not end up on the street but become “sofa-hoppers.” These minors are generally school dropouts who had no contact with the youth welfare office or their parents but were able to find temporary housing through digital networks.
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 200,000, of whom an estimated 90 percent were from the former Soviet Union. There were 90,000 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.
During the final federal cabinet meeting before federal elections in September, the government officially acknowledged the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” The Central Council of Jews in Germany welcomed this decision as an important step towards combatting anti-Semitism.
In 2016, 644 anti-Semitic crimes were reported. According to a report released in April by the Independent Expert Group on Anti-Semitism, traditional forms of anti-Semitism declined slightly, while modern anti-Semitism, such as conflating individual Jews with actions by Israel, remained prevalent. The report also noted anti-Semitism existed on both the extreme right and extreme left of the political spectrum as well as among Muslims in the country.
The FOPC’s annual report stated the number of violent right-wing anti-Semitic incidents increased from 29 in 2015 to 31 in 2016. It noted 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 January Bjoern Hoecke, the caucus chair of the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Thuringia state parliament, denounced the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin as a “monument of shame.” He was criticized within his party but actively campaigned for the AfD in September’s general election.
In January a local court in Betzdorf, Rhineland-Palatinate, acquitted three members of a band called Kaltes Judenleder (Cold Jew Leather) of charges of disseminating right-wing propaganda and using symbols of “anticonstitutional” organizations. The court could not prove that the band’s “inhumane and brutal” anti-Semitic and racist lyrics were meant to be made available to the public.
In April Jewish parents removed their child from a school in the Friedenau district of Berlin, stating their son was subjected to continual discrimination by children of Turkish and Arab descent. The child reportedly was also physically attacked. Following the incident, Jewish leaders called for an investigation into anti-Semitic bullying in schools.
In April a politician from the far-right NPD of the district of Barnim, Brandenburg, was sentenced to eight months in prison for showing unconstitutional tattoos. In 2015 he was seen in a public swimming pool having the silhouette of the concentration camp Buchenwald’s with its slogan “Jedem das Seine” (“To each his own”) tattooed on his back.
On August 26 and September 2, one or more unidentified perpetrators kicked at the facade of the New Synagogue in Ulm, Baden-Wuerttemberg, and later rammed it with a metal post, breaking through the outer wall.
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 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’s enforcement of antidiscrimination laws.
In August the federal government commissioner for matters relating to persons with disabilities criticized the fact that more than 84,000 individuals in the country were not allowed to vote in federal elections. The stated reason was that many were the subjects of court orders declaring they are not capable of independently managing their administrative and financial matters.
Persons with disabilities faced particular difficulties finding housing. The country’s approximately 500,000 children with disabilities attended school.
States decide whether children with disabilities may be included in regular schools or whether they must attend special needs schools.
In February a public hearing organized by the German Institute for Human Rights showed that refugees with disabilities were not always granted the special protection and reasonable accommodation for which they are eligible according to EU Commission guidelines.
Harassment of foreigners and members of racial minorities such as Roma 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 2016 described 1,190 of the 1,600 violent “politically motivated crimes” with “right-wing extremist backgrounds” as xenophobic. Since January the FOPC registered crimes against asylum seekers and refugees as a separate subcategory of politically motivated crimes.
The right-wing extremist, anti-Islam movement Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) maintained the size of its support base after a considerable decline in 2016. On average, approximately 2,000 demonstrators attended PEGIDA rallies in Dresden during the first half of the year.
In April a group of 13 persons using racist language insulted, threatened, and assaulted a 22-year-old Jordanian man and his German female companion walking together in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. During the exchange the man suffered a blow to the head and the woman was threatened with a knife. Police arrested one suspect and filed charges.
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 March a 20-year-old Serbian Rom sued the state of North Rhine-Westphalia for damages and compensation of 52,000 euros ($62,000). He claimed he was wrongfully diagnosed as having mental disabilities when he entered elementary school in Bavaria and spoke very little German. The assessment was not reviewed by local authorities when he moved to North-Rhine Westphalia, and he subsequently attended schools for students with special needs for11 years. The trial continued at year’s end.
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. In November the federal constitutional court found the legal sex-identification option on birth certificates of only “male” and “female” unconstitutional.
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 2016 there were 336 assaults in Berlin motivated by bias against LGBTI persons, according to the NGO Maneo. Insults accounted for 20 percent of the cases reported, injury for 29 percent, and coercion and threat for 22 percent.
In June a lesbian couple was violently assaulted in Berlin. One of the women was hit with a bottle and strangled until she lost consciousness. Passersby intervened and held the assailant until the police took him into custody. Police determined the attack was homophobic, and the BKA took over the investigation.
In July parliament passed a law to compensate the approximately 50,000 men who were punished under the ban on gay acts between 1945 and 1994. Compensation packages include 3,500 euros ($4,200) per person and 1,500 euros ($1,800) for each year the person spent incarcerated.
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. A domestic AIDS service NGO criticized authorities in Bavaria for their continued practice of mandatory HIV testing for asylum seekers.
In August the German Medical Association changed its guidelines regarding blood donations to allow gay men to donate blood, but only after a year of sexual abstinence.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Authorities in Aalen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, reported more than 15 instances of right-wing, neo-Nazi, and anti-Muslim propaganda spray painted on public buildings, including a memorial for the local World War II concentration camp. In February unknown perpetrators desecrated several Muslim graves at the local cemetery. Police were investigating at year’s end.