Germany’s incredible pledge for sweeping reforms of LGBT+ rights is putting the UK to shame

SPD chancellor-elect Olaf Scholz, FDP leader Christian Lindner, and Annalene Baerbock and Robert Habeck, co-leaders of the Greens Party

The chancellor-elect of Germany, Olaf Scholz of the centre-left SDP, and his coalition parties unveiled pledges for sweeping reforms to LGBT+ rights.

The coalition of the SDP, Green Party and Free Democrats, which won the federal election in September, revealed its programme of reforms on Wednesday (24 November) after lengthy negotiations.

The pledges include changes to immigration laws and bringing the voting age down to 16 when the coalition takes power this month.

But the three-party alliance has also vowed to bring in a host of reforms to improve LGBT+ rights in Germany.

According to Der Tagesspiegel, the coalition plans to change the process by which trans folk in Germany achieve legal recognition, and bring in self-identification.

The current system requires trans people to go to court to have their legal gender amended, and allows for a spousal veto, after which the trans person must wait three years before applying again to change their gender marker. They must also be evaluated by medical experts, and have lived as an openly trans person for at least three years.

The reform would mean that trans people in Germany would finally be allowed to determine their own gender.

The coalition would also require that statutory health insurance covers transition-related medical care in full.

Germany plans to compensate trans and intersex people physically harmed by previous legislation

The new coalition has promised to set up a compensation fund for trans and intersex people who have been harmed by previous legislation, for example through forced sterilisation or unnecessary surgeries.

The fund would make Germany the second country in the world to compensate trans people for forced sterilisation, after Sweden became the first in 2018.

Before 2011, trans people in Germany were forced to undergo mandatory sterilisation in order to receive legal gender recognition.

Earlier this year, Germany passed a ban on so-called “normalising” surgeries on intersex children and adolescents, but many have been left with the trauma of the unnecessary surgeries.

In 2012 the German Ethics Council published a report which found that “many people who were subjected to a ‘normalising’ operation in their childhood have later felt it to have been a mutilation and would never have agreed to it as adults.”

The German coalition wants LGBT+ protected in the country’s constitution

While the 2006 Equal Treatment Act protects Germans from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the new coalition is calling for these protections to be enshrined in the country’s constitution.

Currently, article three of the German constitution states: “No person shall be favoured or disfavoured because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith or religious or political opinions. No person shall be disfavoured because of disability.”

Other proposed reforms include strengthening Germany’s conversion therapy ban, nationally recording the levels of anti-LGBT+ hate crimes, doing away with blood donation restrictions for men who have sex with men, reviewing asylum procedures for queer refugees and automatic parental rights for lesbian couples who currently have to go through second parent adoption.

Julia Monro, of the German Society for Transidentity and Intersexuality (DGTI), told Der Tagesspiegel: “There has never been such progressive projects for the rights of queer people in a coalition agreement. This is a milestone and the queer community is cheering.” 

Germany’s proposed LGBT+ rights reforms put the UK to shame

The incredible proposals for LGBT+ rights in Germany also serve to shine a light on countries where rights and protections for the LGBT+ community are severely lacking.

In the UK, trans rights are lightyears behind, with trans folk forced to go through the complex, outdated and overly bureaucratic process prescribed by the 2004 Gender Recognition Act in order to have their gender legally recognised, and no reform in sight.

Compensation for medical harm seems a far-off dream when young trans people’s right to affirming medical care is repeatedly challenged in court, and waiting lists for gender clinics stretch on for years.

There is no legislation in the UK to prevent intersex children from undergoing non-consensual surgeries and “corrective” medical interventions, even on the NHS, and a conversion therapy ban has not yet been introduced.