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The Federal Executive Board of the Democratic Women’s League of Germany: Working Directive on the Law for the Protection of Mothers and the Rights of Women (November 6, 1950)

The equality of men and women was enshrined in the GDR constitution, and the SED made every effort to further increase the number of women in the workforce. In 1950, the Democratic Women’s League of Germany [Demokratischer Frauenbund Deutschlands or DFD], the most important East German women’s organization, outlined the state’s extensive catalogue of aid and support measures for women and mothers. In many enterprises, however, there was still considerable opposition to the equal employment of women and to their appointment to leadership positions.

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Women Ask – The DFD Responds

“Without getting women to participate autonomously not only in political life as such, but also in the ongoing public service to be performed by all, it is impossible to speak not only of Socialism, but also of a complete and solid democracy.”
– Lenin

Question: Was there ever a time when women in Germany had equality?

Answer: The constitution of 1919 stated: “Men and women are fundamentally equal.” However, this declared equality was limited to civic rights, and the word “fundamentally” was exploited to the disadvantage of the [supposedly] equal woman. Equality existed only on paper, since not all laws that restricted women in their rights were abolished. The so-called Bonn Basic Law speaks of the equality of men and women, but states at the end of its provisions that laws contradicting equality will remain in force until March 31, 1953.

The discrimination against women, which existed for centuries, was already abolished in our German Democratic Republic through Article 7 of our constitution, which says: “Men and women are equal.” This article goes on to say: “All laws and regulations that contradict the equality of women are repealed.” With the Law for Women, which guarantees the practical implementation of Article 7 of our constitution, the equality of women has become a reality for the first time in German history. The precondition for this was the new path after 1945: the creation of an anti-Fascist-democratic order.

The first breakthrough for the equality of women was achieved in August 1946 with Order 253 of the then Soviet Military Administration. The order guaranteed our women equal pay for equal work. Thus, the glorious Soviet army not only liberated Germany from Hitler Fascism, but also opened a path for German women to a freer and happier life. In the Soviet Union, the equality of women has long since been reality.

Question: Wherein lies the great value of the Law for Women?

Answer: The great value of this law lies not only in the financial support for working women and women with many children, but above all in the practical equality in all areas of life. Through this law, women have the possibility of becoming qualified for all positions and of participating in the democratic build-up of our land as conscious citizens equal to men.

Question: Does the law force women to work?

Answer: Neither the Law on Work nor the Law for Women contains provisions that amount to a compulsion to work. The right to work is granted to every citizen, and thus women, too, have been given full freedom to shape their lives and activity on their own. To that end, they receive the greatest possible support from the government of our German Democratic Republic. It eliminates all obstacles for them and helps them make use of their right to work.

The great majority of women used to have to work out of social need; their children were left to themselves and exposed to the influences of the street. Today, mothers can pursue their work feeling reassured. Children receive the best care and education in the Children’s Homes, and this takes the burden off the working mother. The goal is to support the working mother in all areas as best as possible, in order to give her real free time with her child after her work ends.

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