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Speech by GDR Minister President Otto Grotewohl: "For the Happiness of Our Mothers and Children" (September 27, 1950)

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At the moment, women are not participating to a sufficient extent in building up the German Democratic Republic, even though there are shining examples in many ministerial offices and in the administration. A woman is part of the top leadership in [the area of] planning. A number of women are running important major departments and divisions in the ministries of the German Democratic Republic and of the states; two women are members of the Directorate of the Provisional People’s Chamber [Präsidium der Provisorischen Volkskammer]; fifty-one women are deputies of the Provisional People’s Chamber; one woman is state secretary in the Ministry of Education [Volksbildungsministerium], one woman is vice-president of the Supreme Court [Oberster Gerichtshof].

In the five states of the German Democratic Republic, there are (as of March 1950)

276 female mayors,
43 female district councilors,
25 female city councilors, and
2 female lord mayors.

Women have demonstrated in all branches of the working world that they are capable of holding their own; they have already achieved important and outstanding accomplishments in the democratic rebuilding. [ . . . ]

A new family law is necessary!

Minister President Otto Grotewohl then addressed the individual provisions of the law, which we have published elsewhere verbatim. With respect to Section II of the law, “Marriage and Family,” he stated:

With the provisions about the equality of men and women, the constitution of the German Democratic Republic has given women a level of legal status that they have never before enjoyed in Germany. For the constitution did not limit itself to proclaiming the principle of equality; rather, as with the other rights granted to citizens, it has [also] created real guarantees for its realization.

Initially, the principle of equality between men and women as established in the constitution ran counter to the Civil Code, which is based on the principle that the man is privileged. In order to immediately prevent the further application of the Civil Code and of other laws that contradict the principle of equality, the constitution, in Article 7 and Article 30, explicitly adopted the provision that all laws that contravene the equality of men and women are abolished. Thanks to this clear ruling by the constitution, it has no longer been possible, since the founding of the German Democratic Republic, to apply laws that disadvantage women in their legal status vis-à-vis men.

This, too, makes clear the difference between the constitution of the German Democratic Republic, which does in fact guarantee the democratic rights of citizens, and the pseudo-democratic constitution of the Weimar Republic. The constitution of 1919 also proclaimed the principle of the equality of the sexes, but it was limited, though, to civic rights. In fact, all the laws that restricted women in their rights continued to be applied, and only the founding of the German Democratic Republic put an end to this situation.

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