Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of a person, including spousal rape, regardless of gender, and provides penalties for conviction of up to 15 years in prison. Without a court order, officials may temporarily deny access to their household to those accused of abuse, or they may impose a restraining order. In severe cases of rape and domestic violence, authorities may prosecute individuals for assault or rape and require them to pay damages. Penalties depend on the nature of the case. The government enforced the laws effectively.
The federal government, the states, and NGOs supported numerous projects to prevent and respond to cases of gender-based violence, including providing survivors with greater access to medical care and legal assistance. Approximately 350 women’s shelters operated throughout the country.
Social service NGOs and shelter operators complained access to shelters was uneven or not available in many areas, with a shortfall in accommodation for approximately 15,000 women nationwide. Media reported a lack of shelter availability in many regions of the country. The NGO Central Information Agency of Autonomous Women’s Shelters stated refugee women were at particular risk of domestic violence because they were required to maintain residence in a single district for three years, had few financial resources, and often resided in districts without women’s shelters.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): There were no reports FGM/C was performed in the country. FGM/C of women and girls is a criminal offense punishable if convicted by one to 15 years in prison, even if performed abroad. Authorities may revoke the passports of individuals suspected of traveling abroad to subject a girl or woman to FGM/C but have not taken this step since the law took effect in 2017. During the year there were no reports FGM/C was performed in the country. A working group led by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth collaborated with other federal government bodies and all 16 states to combat FGM/C.
The ministry continued to issue “protection letters” for girls at risk of FGM/C, warning of the high criminal penalties for FGM/C in the country. The letter was intended to be carried when travelling abroad and shown to relatives or others who tried to subject girls to FGM/C.
Other Forms of Gender-based Violence: Criminal law considers so-called honor killings as murder and the government enforced the law effectively. Although authorities estimated the number of such killings fluctuated between approximately three and 12 during any given year, some observers questioned how many of these were so-called honor killings, which media tended to attribute to immigrant communities, and how many were other manifestations of domestic violence.
In March the trial began in Berlin of two men of Afghan descent for the July 2021 killing of their sister. The two allegedly killed their sister because she had divorced her husband and was involved in a relationship with another man. The trial continued as of December.
In April an Afghan man in Berlin was charged with murder in the death of his former wife. His trial began in November. Media reported he did not accept the divorce, which he considered an act of infidelity. The woman’s family stated she had filed for a restraining order and repeatedly sought police help, but police had not taken her seriously because she was an immigrant. A police spokesman stated authorities would review police handling of the case but had not reported on the matter as of November.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Penalties for conviction include monetary fines and prison sentences of up to five years. Various disciplinary measures against harassment in the workplace are available, including dismissal of the perpetrator. The law requires employers to protect all employees from sexual harassment. 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.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
While abortion is technically illegal in Germany, existing laws protect patients, physicians, and service providers from prosecution through the twelfth week under certain conditions. The law requires parental permission for patients younger than age 18 to obtain an abortion, but physicians may exempt patients age 14 or older from this requirement.
On July 8, the government eliminated a Nazi-era law that had generally restricted doctors and service providers from providing information about abortion and related services available.
Individuals have access to safe, effective, and affordable methods of family planning and contraception of their choice, including emergency contraception, throughout the country. Prenatal and obstetrical care is comprehensive, widely available and covered by all insurance providers. Public information regarding contraception, reproductive health, and prenatal care is readily available free of charge from health insurance providers, NGOs, and health authorities.
Public health insurance covers the costs of emergency contraception and abortion in cases of rape or if medically necessary. Emergency health care in the event of abortion complications is available and unrestricted. Emergency contraception is widely available and does not require a prescription.
The law requires public health insurance to pay for immediate care for all survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception, although not all states have fully implemented the law.
Discrimination: Men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights under the constitution and family, labor, religious, personal status, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The government generally enforced the law effectively, although women did not always receive the same pay as men for equivalent work (see section 7.d).
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The country’s constitution states no one shall be “favored or disfavored because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith or religious or political opinions.” Federal laws prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnicity by public authorities as well as private actors such as employers, landlords and businesses; however, the government did not always effectively enforce these laws.
Public incitement of hatred against an ethnic, racial, religious, or other minority is a crime, and authorities vigorously prosecuted violations of the law. Conviction of crimes motivated by such hatred also incur harsher sentences, and judges regularly imposed these sentences.
The federal and state governments employed a wide range of measures to eliminate ethnic and racial basis. For example, the federal government operated FADA, which takes complaints and reports of discrimination and provides advice and support to victims. Some states also had similar offices. Observers noted FADA was underfunded and that both state and federal offices were not sufficiently independent. Members of minority groups were not always aware of these resources.
The federal and state governments also provided grants to civil society organizations working to combat racism and ethnic bias. For example, during the year the federal government program Demokratie Leben (Live Democracy) dispensed 165 million euros ($177 million) in grants to organizations promoting diversity and combating extremism.
Federal and state OPCs also monitored groups with racist or xenophobic ideologies. The annual FOPC report for 2021, released in June, recorded the reporting and investigation of 20,201 politically motivated crimes committed by individuals with right-wing extremist backgrounds, including 945 violent crimes, of which 686 were categorized as xenophobic. The 2021 FADA report listed 2,080 complaints of racism, a decline of 21 complaints compared with 2020, and 1,775 based on disability stemming from chronic diseases. The agency reported 5,617 requests for consultations from possible victims of discrimination, compared with 6,383 in 2020.
Persons of foreign origin sometimes faced difficulties finding housing. FADA reported persons not of ethnic German origin, particularly of Roma, Turkish, and African origin, including those with foreign sounding names, were often subjected to discrimination in the housing market. Foreign workers sometimes faced wage discrimination (see section 7.d.).
Harassment of members of racial minorities, such as Roma and Sinti, remained a problem throughout the country. In March the Federal Government appointed the country’s first national Commissioner to Combat Anti-Roma Prejudice and for Roma Life in Germany. The commission coordinates government measures and offers protection in the fight against anti-Roma prejudice and discrimination.
In July the federal government named the country’s first independent Federal Commissioner for Antidiscrimination. The commissioner is the head of FADA and may make policy proposals to the federal government, as well as submit recommendations and opinions on pending legislation. The commissioner may also request responses from authorities to individual discrimination complaints.
On May 23, the state government of Hesse renewed until 2032 its agreement with the Hesse chapter of the Association of German Sinti and Roma, under which the state provides 200,000 euros ($214,000) annually to improve the participation of Sinti and Roma in society and combat anti-Roma prejudice.
Birth Registration: In most cases individuals derive citizenship from their parents. The law also grants citizenship at birth to children born 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 are responsible for registering newborn children. Once government officials received birth registration applications, they generally processed them expeditiously. Parents who fail to register their child’s birth may be subject to a monetary fine. Birth certificates are required to access some public services, such as education, health care, and day care.
Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse. The law punishes violence, cruelty, and malicious neglect of children. Incidents of child abuse were reported. The Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women, and Youth sponsored programs throughout the year on the prevention of child abuse. The ministry continued 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 young survivors of sexual abuse.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years.
The law nullifies existing marriages conducted in other countries in which at least one spouse was younger than age 16 at the time of the wedding, even if they were of legal age in the country where the marriage was performed. Individuals ages 16 or 17 may petition a judge on a case-by-case basis to recognize their foreign marriage if they face a specific hardship from not having their marriage legally recognized. Complete central statistics were unavailable on such cases. Child and forced marriage primarily affected girls of foreign nationality.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, sale, offering, or using children for commercial sexual exploitation, including child sex trafficking, as well as practices related to child pornography. Authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 14 years, but sex is not considered consensual if the person is younger than age 16 and the older partner is age 18 or older and “exploiting a coercive situation.” It is illegal for adults to offer compensation for sex to a person younger than age 18. It is also illegal for a person who is age 21 or older to have sex with someone between ages 14 and 16 if the older person “exploits the victim’s lack of capacity for sexual self-determination.”
The law allows undercover investigators to use artificially created videos of child sexual abuse to gain access to internet forums. The government’s Independent Commissioner for Child Sex Abuse Issues operates an online help portal and an anonymous telephone helpline free of charge.
In January the NRW police task force that began investigating in 2019 a child abuse network in Bergisch-Gladbach concluded its work. During the investigation it identified 439 suspects and freed 65 children, one of whom was three months old. The Cologne public prosecutor’s office prosecuted 13 cases resulting in convictions and sentences of more than 80 years imprisonment, and investigators referred hundreds of cases for prosecution in other jurisdictions.
An NRW parliamentary committee investigating possible failures and misconduct by the NRW state government in multiple cases of sexual abuse of children at a campground in Luegde was reconstituted after state elections in May. In February the committee issued a 4,000-page interim report that criticized data protection measures that made it difficult to save and store information concerning endangered children and perpetrators in government computer systems, as well as inadequate training of youth welfare staff in recognizing signs of sexual abuse in children.
In June police identified a nationwide abuse ring during an investigation in Wermelskirchen, NRW. The targeted suspect, who offered his services as a babysitter, kept lists of contacts throughout the country, with whom he exchanged images and videos of abuse. During the year prosecutors in multiple states were investigating at least 85 suspects and had identified at least 33 survivors tied to the case.
Observers estimate the country’s Jewish population to be approximately 200,000, of whom an estimated 90 percent were from the former Soviet Union. There were 91,839 registered, dues-paying members of Jewish congregations in 2021.
Manifestations of antisemitism, including physical and verbal attacks, occurred at public demonstrations, sporting and social events, in schools, in the street, in certain media outlets, and online. Apart from antisemitic speech, desecration of cemeteries and Holocaust monuments represented the most widespread antisemitic acts. The federal government attributed most antisemitic acts to neo-Nazi or other right-wing extremist groups or persons, and such acts increased during the year. In November the Federal Government released the country’s first national strategy to combat antisemitism and support Jewish life. Jewish organizations also noted antisemitic attitudes and behavior of some Muslim youth and left-wing extremists. NGOs agreed right-wing extremists were responsible for most antisemitic acts but cautioned federal statistics misattributed many acts committed by Muslims as right-wing acts.
According to the Bavarian government, most antisemitic crimes in the state are committed by right-wing extremists, with radical Muslim elements also responsible for some. Political and legal experts stated hate speech crimes far outnumbered violent crimes.
According to media reports, on April 22 and 23, participants in two separate demonstrations of approximately 700 individuals in the Berlin districts of Neukoelln and Kreuzberg chanted antisemitic slogans and attacked police and journalists, whom they suggested were Jewish. Police were investigating multiple participants for assault and hate speech laws. Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser, Berlin Commissioner for Jewish Life and the Fight Against Antisemitism Samuel Salzborn, and several national politicians condemned the antisemitic nature of the demonstrations.
Several Jewish travelers accused Lufthansa of discrimination for preventing 127 passengers from boarding a May 4 flight from Frankfurt to Budapest. Lufthansa staff did not allow passengers with Jewish names or wearing traditional Jewish clothing to board the flight, according to press accounts and a video of the incident. Initially, Lufthansa justified its action because some of the individuals had failed to comply with mask requirements during a previous flight from New York. One Lufthansa staff member was seen on a video widely shared on social media stating it was, “Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems.” On May 10, Lufthansa apologized for the inconvenience and offense caused in a brief statement that many observers, including Hesse Antisemitism Commissioner Uwe Becker, stated fell short of taking full responsibility for the discrimination against Jewish passengers. In September, as a direct result of the incident, Lufthansa formally embraced the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
Representatives of the Jewish community and Hesse’s Commissioner for Jewish Life and the Fight Against Antisemitism Uwe Becker criticized the international art exhibition documenta fifteen for exhibiting antisemitic works. Accusations initially focused on imagery in a prominent artwork by Indonesian collective Taring Padi. On June 22, exhibit management removed the artwork and on July 16, exhibit director general Sabine Schormann resigned. Visitors raised additional accusations of antisemitic imagery in other artworks. The exhibition’s curators, the Indonesian collective Ruangrupa, denied the accusations. German and international Jewish organizations criticized organizers, curators, and politicians for failing to take preventative action against antisemitism at the exhibit before it opened.
In August NRW Commissioner for Jewish Life and the Fight Against Antisemitism Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger demanded a review of antisemitic stereotypes held by some police, stating antisemitic statements and acts “are more often not recognized or given appropriate weight when reports are recorded or investigations are carried out.”
Berlin police continued to investigate multiple persons for various charges stemming from violence and antisemitic hate speech during May 2021 demonstrations.
In July the Cologne public prosecutor’s office brought charges against four persons for alleged involvement in an August 2021 attack in a Cologne public park on a man age 18 wearing a kippa. He was insulted and severely beaten, suffering a broken cheekbone and a broken nose in the incident. Police identified two of the attackers in videos of the incident and arrested them.
On August 9, a Hamburg juvenile court convicted a boy, age 17, and sentenced him to a 16-month suspended prison sentence and community service for assaulting a Jewish man, age 60, at a September 2021 pro-Israel vigil in central Hamburg, leaving the victim with serious injuries. The perpetrator shouted, “free Palestine” and “f- Israel” just before the assault, which was strongly condemned by Hamburg officials. The perpetrator’s brother, who was also involved in the attack, was also sentenced to community service.
The Protestant Church of Germany Berlin-Brandenburg promised to reform its process for allocating gravesites following an internal review of an October 2021 incident in which a neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier from Oberhausen, NRW, was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender (1852-1934) in a cemetery in Stahnsdorf, near Berlin. Prosecutors decided not to file charges in the case.
Many prominent government officials repeatedly condemned antisemitic acts throughout the year, including Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. In 2018 the federal government created the position of federal commissioner for Jewish life in Germany and the Fight Against Antisemitism. Since then, 15 of 16 states have also established state-level commissioners to combat antisemitism. In the one state that has not instituted the position of commissioner, the Bremen Jewish community advised the state government it was not necessary to introduce such a position, and that it deemed alternative tools to combat antisemitism to be more efficient. The positions’ responsibilities vary by state but involve meeting with the Jewish community, collecting statistics on antisemitic acts, and designing education and prevention programs. A federal- and state-level Commission to Combat Antisemitism and Protect Jewish Life that includes all commissioners meets twice a year to coordinate strategies.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: No laws criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) activists and community members complained of violent attacks and a growing atmosphere of hostility towards LGBTQI+ persons across the country, often directed at transgender individuals. Official crime statistics released in May showed a 55 percent rise in recorded hate crimes against LGBTQI+ persons nationwide in 2021, with 1,051 such crimes recorded by authorities. Of these, 190 were violent (up 44 percent over 2020) and 177 involved battery (up 42 percent over 2020). Hate crimes targeting individuals based on gender and sexual orientation increased by 67 percent in 2021 from 2020. Community activists suspected the actual figures were much higher and counted three anti-LGBTQI+ killings in the country in 2021. The Berlin NGO Maneo stated privacy protection laws prevented police from releasing information regarding specific incidents in approximately 60 percent of cases, making it difficult for the NGO to assess the magnitude of the problem.
On June 4, a group of what witnesses stated were approximately 30 individuals assaulted participants following the Karlsruhe LGBTQI+ pride march in a city park, injuring six of them, including one who required hospitalization, and burning a pride flag. Observers accused police of being slow to respond to the incident, which a police spokesperson denied. Police arrested six suspects at the scene.
On August 27, an attacker killed Malte C., a transgender man, age 25, at an LGBTQI+ pride march in Bielefeld. According to police, the attacker and an accomplice had first hurled anti-LGBTQI+ slurs at women participating in the march; when Malte C. asked them to stop, one of them turned on him, beating him in the face until he collapsed and struck his head on the pavement; Malte died a few days later. On September 2, police arrested a man, age 20, suspected of the assault, and on November 16, prosecutors charged him with manslaughter and verbal assault. No trial date had been set and authorities had yet to arrest an accomplice at year’s end. State Minister of Culture and Media Claudia Roth and Bielefeld Mayor Pit Clausen condemned the attack.
On September 10, a transgender hairstylist was assaulted in her Berlin salon by an attacker initially claiming he wanted to apologize for past harassment, only to then insult her again. When she asked him to leave, he attempted to punch her and then threw stones at her, damaging the salon. Police arrested a suspect, age 16, but later released him. The investigation continued as of November.
No trial date had been set as of October in the case of three suspects arrested in June 2021 for assaulting and injuring three marchers in a Berlin LGBTQ+ pride march. Police later released the suspects, and they remain at large.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination by state and nonstate actors based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics and recognized LGBTQ+ individuals, couples, and their families. Authorities enforced the law. The government offered telephone and online consultations to persons who wished to report discrimination.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: Legal gender recognition is available, but it does not comply with the recommended global standard of allowing individuals to self-identify their gender. LGBTQI+ activists criticized the requirement that transgender persons obtain two assessments by independent experts to receive legal gender recognition (including a legal name change) as expensive, time consuming, subjective, and intrusive.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: By law, offering, advertising, or arranging treatments to convert homosexual or transgender children by means of “conversion therapy” is a crime punishable if convicted by up to a year in prison. Persons convicted of coercing such “therapy” on persons of legal age are also subject to incarceration. There were no reports that children had been subjected to conversion therapy during the year.
On May 17, the Federal Center for Health Education established a telephone hotline and online service to provide free and anonymous consultations to young persons and others who suspected such practices.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no restrictions on those speaking out on LGBTQI+ matters or on the ability of LGBTQI+ organizations to legally register or convene events such as Pride festivities.
Persons with Disabilities
Federal and state laws require authorities take measures to provide for persons with disabilities to have equal treatment and access to education, health care, public buildings and services, and transportation. The law requires access to information and communications, including public information in accessible formats. These requirements were not always met. For example, most physicians’ offices located in older buildings were not accessible to persons with disabilities, and there were too few health-care facilities that met the specific health-care needs of persons with disabilities. Government information and communications were not always provided in accessible formats, especially at the local level.
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. 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 legal protections. NGOs disagreed on whether the government effectively enforced these provisions.
Persons with disabilities also faced obstacles in obtaining employment (see section 7.d.) and housing. Although discrimination based on a disability was illegal, the unemployment rate among persons with disabilities of working age was much higher than in the general population. Not enough suitable employment opportunities were available for persons with disabilities, and despite requirements that private companies with over 20 employees employ persons with disabilities, many chose to pay a monetary fine instead of doing so. There was also a shortage of affordable, accessible, and barrier-free housing for persons with disabilities and older, and privately owned residential and commercial buildings were often exempt from accessibility regulations.
An estimated 1.3 million adults were living under conservatorships in the country, many of them with a disability, whose rights were restricted to various degrees under conservatorship laws. In March the government reformed conservatorship laws, effective 2023, to give persons under conservatorship more control over their own lives. NGOs such as the Institute for Human Rights stated that the reforms did not go far enough. For example, the law continues to permit involuntary medical treatment or sterilization in some cases.
State officials decide whether children with disabilities may attend mainstream or segregated schools. The law obliges all children to attend school, so those with disabilities do so at the same rate as children without disabilities. Approximately 45 percent of children with disabilities attended public schools with their peers, while the remainder attended segregated schools, although inclusion levels varied among the country’s 16 states. Somewhat more than one-half of the students with disabilities attending school with their peers successfully completed secondary education, compared with one in four of those attending segregated schools.
According to data released in June, persons with disabilities filed 1,775 discrimination complaints with FADA in 2021, 32 percent of the total it received.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Media reported women who wore a hijab faced employment discrimination, and that discrimination was made easier by the customary practice of requiring photos as part of job applications. A 2017 European Court of Justice ruling permits employers to prevent staff from wearing religious attire and symbols at work if this is necessary to enable the employer to project an image of neutrality to clients. There were reports of employers applying this rule. For example, in March a hospital in the Ruhr region acknowledged it did not permit staff to wear headscarves at work because headscarves infringe “religious neutrality of the staff in their interactions with patients.”
The NGO German AIDS Foundation and the NGO German AIDS Service Organization reported that societal discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS ranged from isolation and negative comments from acquaintances, family, and friends, to bullying at work.