Why the German self-determination law faces criticism from all sides


Central Europe


German Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz talk to each other during a meeting of the German government’s cabinet at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 23 August 2023. The German Federal Cabinet discusses, among other things, a draft law on self-determination in relation to gender registration. Photo EPA, Clemens Bilan

The German coalition has introduced a bill intended to make it easier for transsexuals to change their gender. Criticism of this proposal is wide-ranging: some consider it discriminatory. Others see this as a danger, especially for young people.

The self-determination law of the German government stipulates that transsexuals or people who do not identify with a gender will, in future, be able to change their gender on official documents without a medical certificate. The regulation also applies to children and young people if their parents agree. People over 14 could change their gender at the registry office without the consent of their legal guardians if a family court approves.

Doctors raised doubts about the planned law at an expert hearing in the Bundestag’s Family Committee. The psychotherapist Aglaja Stirn explained that minors are usually unable to assess the consequences of a gender change. The German Bundestag reports that she also warned against peer pressure at this age.

“Hopelessly overwhelmed”

Bernd Ahrbeck from the “International Psychoanalytic University of Berlin” confirmed that 14-year-olds are “hopelessly overwhelmed” by such a decision. People also often reconciled with their gender later in life, even if they rejected it during puberty.

The Union took up this criticism on Wednesday. Deputy parliamentary group leader Dorothee Bär (CSU) called the proposed law an “ideological project” that the government wanted to “whip” against the well-being of children and young people.

But criticism also came from the other side and, therefore, from those who support a law to make gender transition easier. Above all, the so-called “domestic law” causes queer activists and human rights activists to shake their heads. Accordingly, gym operators can decide for themselves whether, for example, a transsexual woman can also use the women’s locker room. The same applies in sports clubs or the sauna.


Kalle Hümpfner from the “Bundesverband Trans” called for this regulation to be deleted from the law. Henrike Ostwald from the “German Women’s Council” explained that women’s shelters are not in danger due to the Self-Determination Act. The law should not lead to more discrimination. Legal scholar Judith Froese noted that it was unclear under what conditions a private sauna operator or a women’s shelter could deny a person access.

After a first reading in mid-November, the draft law is expected to be passed in the Bundestag soon. It remains to be seen whether there will be any improvements by then.

This article was translated by CNE.news and previously published in the German Christian magazine PRO on November 29th, 2023.



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