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.