All hell broke loose. In mid-August, German and international media reported the Civil Status Law Amendment Act to be a gender revolution. When it comes into force in November, “ ” (nothing) will be able to be registered on birth certificates, along with “male” and “female”. The provision was made for intersex children. It sounds like a liberation, but human rights groups like “Intersexuelle Menschen”, “IVIM-OII”, or “Zwischengeschlecht.org” found this alarming.
The German Federal Parliament has already changed the Civil Status Act on May 7, 2013: “If a child cannot be assigned as either female nor male, the civil status case will be registered without a gender in the register of births”, says article 22, section 3 of the Civil Status Act as of November 1, 2013. A day before the first reading, the conservative-liberal Federal Government took the opposition and human rights organisations by surprise: “The provided settlement clarifies that the gender status will remain open in the entry of birth, if it is ambiguous,” the draft proposal of the Commitee of Internal Affairs later said.
“This is a stigmatising special-purpose act,” criticises Markus Bauer, chief campaigner of the human rights group “Zwischengeschlecht.org”. The registration of civil status can be already postponed, if information or evidence are missing (art. 7 Code of Civil Status Procedure). Entries can be changed later on (art. 47 Civil Status Act), although public authorities put obstacles in their way.
“The amendment in January was a tactic of the Federal Government to distract from genital mutilation,” reckons Daniela Truffer, chairperson of “Zwischengeschlecht.org”. “The debate over civil status is no use to those affected.” Markus Bauer calls the amendment a dirty campaign trick for LGBTs: “No one gives a toss about whether the amendment really earns intersex people anything.”
Just before the elections in September, some media have praised the German Federal Government for being progressive. At August 16, 2013, Heribert Prantl cheered in the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung about a “juridical revolution” whose importance had not received enough attention. He had come upon the topic by reading the law journal “FamRZ”. Friederike Heine took over on “Spiegel Online International”: Germany would offer a third gender. The amendment would allow parents to get out of determining their child’s gender. The “Huffington Post” also wrote that Germany offered a third gender. Later “The Guardian” wrote something similar. Incidentally, none of the newspapers had spoken to intersex people. Truffer attributes the coverage to “media support of government policy”.
For “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, “Spiegel Online”, “Huffington Post”, and “The Guardian” are partly wrong. There is no third gender entry. The new rule says that the entrance will have to be left out when the sex cannot be assigned. Markus Bauer said, “They are labelling newborns.” Truffer adds, “Parents are under pressure to avoid a forced outing by the state.” In this way, the act strengthens parents and doctors who perform cosmetic genital surgeries on intersex children. Doctors are transformed even more into expert witnesses. Markus Bauer wants another solution: “It is necessary to have precise regulations by law instead of decisions by medical professionals.” Moreover, what the Parliament has now decided on is not what the German Ethics Council recommended in its statement on intersexuality from 2012. According to that, there should be a third gender entry “other”, but as a choice. This should be supplemented with the option not to certificate the gender until the child decides for themselves. Daniela Truffer says, “Most of us would not register as intersex. They suffer from surgeries and medicine. The third gender entry other would help other groups for the main part, and would make intersex people more invisible.” There can be no objection to adults having this option, but not on the behalf of intersex people, and in any case not without banning genital mutilation, Truffer complains: “This is civil status policy at the expense of mutilated children.”
On June 27, 2013, the oppositional factions – the Social Democrats, Greens, and Leftists – initiated three bills into the Federal Parliament which would have forbidden cosmetic genital surgery on minors and insisted on a historical investigation. “These three bills have been the first good thing for us,” Bauer thinks. But the coalition of the conservative CDU and CSU, and the liberal FDP refused the bills. Beyond that, they are opposed to the recommendation of the German Ethics Council. Even reproaches by the United Nations – recently from the Special Rapporteur on Torture – are ignored by the governing coalition. In particular the conservative CDU / CSU faction is adamant, they want to wait. “Every party wants to ban genital mutilation. But when it matters, the government stalls,” fumes Bauer. The topic is indeed new to the oppositional parties, too. Shady: on the same June 27, the Federal Parliament tightened (quite rightly) the sentence for female genital mutilation. Obviously, FDP, CDU and CSU failed to put intersex genital mutilation in the same category.
The banning of cosmetic genital surgery on minors is the most important demand of “Zwischengeschlecht.org”. The Civil Status Law could be changed later so that parents would register their child’s gender. And at the age of majority, every person could unbureaucratically change their civil status.
You shouldn‘t count on it for now. By the time the new Federal Parliament gets together (after the election on September 22) and selects the government, it will probably be mid-November. The Civil Status Law Amendment Act will have long since come into effect. There will still be no ban on genital mutilation.
Dieser Text erschien zuerst auf „Mädchenmannschaft.net” am 11. September 2013 unter dem Titel „Weiblich, Männlich, Lücke – Das neue Gesetz schadet vor allem Intersexen”. Dankeschön an Kirsty für die Übersetzung!