A Gay Turning Point that Failed to Turn? The Beethoven hall Podium Discussion of 1980

Samuel Clowes Huneke is assistant professor of history in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University. His research, which focuses on gender and sexuality in Nazi and Cold War Germany, has appeared in scholarly publications including Journal of Contemporary History and New German Critique. His first book, tentatively titled States of Liberation: Gay Men between Dictatorship and Democracy in Cold War Germany, is under contract with University of Toronto Press. He is a frequent contributor to Boston ReviewLos Angeles Review of Books, and The Point magazine.  

On July 12, 1980, thousands of gay West Germans descended on Bonn. A federal election was imminent and West Germany’s gay activists had organized a so-called podium discussion at the Beethovenhalle, the large performance hall that had twice hosted the Bundesversammlung, which elects the Federal Republic’s President. Inviting representatives of the major parties to speak to a queer audience, the instigators hoped the event would pressure politicians—in particular those of the governing Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Free Democratic Party (FDP)—to concede to their policy demands. These included reparations for gay victims of the Holocaust and repeal of §175 of the penal code, which after the law’s 1969 reform set a higher age of consent for sex acts between men. 

„A Gay Turning Point that Failed to Turn? The Beethoven hall Podium Discussion of 1980“ weiterlesen

Policing without Police. Republican Paramilitary „Punishment” Attacks on Women in Northern Ireland 1971 – 1979

Juliane Röleke is currently a PhD candidate in history at Humboldt-University Berlin and at Leibniz-Centre for Contemporary Historical Research Potsdam. She has studied history and social sciences in Berlin and Belfast and is working on a project about violence and gender in everday-life during the conflict in Northern Ireland. Her research interest centers around forms of female deviant behaviour during the Troubles, gendered logic of sanctions and feminist interventions. In addition, she is working on the history of Nazi Germany for various memorials and organises educational projects for different football clubs.

Cartoon from: Belfast Telegraph, 13th Nov 1971, p. 6.
Picture courtesy of Belfast Telegraph

A few days after the 21st Miss World contest had taken place in London in November 1971, the Belfast Telegraph published the displayed cartoon by Rowel Friers, connecting the event across the sea to recent incidents in the war-torn province of Northern Ireland.[1] The cartoon picked up the phenomenon of Republican paramilitary “punishment” attacks against Catholic women in the region. It reveals the meaning of gender within informal justice[2] and constitutes itself an example of its sexist logic and perception.

„Policing without Police. Republican Paramilitary „Punishment” Attacks on Women in Northern Ireland 1971 – 1979“ weiterlesen

Gleiche Rechte, gleiche Strafen? Die erste Frauenbewegung und der § 175

Elisa Heinrich hat ihre Dissertation mit dem Titel „Intim und respektabel. Aushandlungen von Homosexualität und Freundinnenschaft in der deutschen Frauenbewegung 1870 bis 1914“ im Juli 2020 an der Universität Wien eingereicht. Im Rahmen weiterer Forschungsprojekte hat sie sich u.a. mit Erinnerungspolitiken und Denkmalkulturen in Bezug auf homosexuelle NS-Opfer beschäftigt. Ihre Forschungsschwerpunkte liegen in der Sexualitätengeschichte und der Geschichte sozialer Beziehungen im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert.
Kontakt: elisa.heinrich(at)univie.ac.at

Zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts entzündete sich im Deutschen Reich eine Debatte um die Frage, ob gleichgeschlechtliche Sexualakte zwischen Frauen ebenso strafbar sein sollten wie jene zwischen Männern. Auslöser dieser Kontroverse war der im Rahmen einer umfassenden Strafrechtsreform im Jahr 1909 veröffentlichte Vorentwurf, der vorsah den – bisher nur auf Männer angewandten – § 175 und damit das Delikt der „widernatürlichen Unzucht“ auf Frauen auszudehnen.

Dieser Vorstoß, gleichgeschlechtliche Beziehungen zwischen Frauen zu kriminalisieren, löste eine Reihe von Reaktionen in unterschiedlichen Öffentlichkeiten aus. Die Frauenbewegung war als homosozialer Raum, in dem Frauen – als Freundinnen, Gefährtinnen, Paare – in professioneller, politischer und intimer Weise miteinander verbunden waren, von dieser Entwicklung in einzigartiger Weise betroffen. 

Der Vorentwurf zu einem Deutschen Strafgesetzbuch

Der Vorentwurf der vorgesehenen Reform erschien im April 1909 und bildete eine von mehreren Stufen, um das Strafgesetzbuch von 1871 zu ersetzen. Die Reformierung der so genannten Sittlichkeitsdelikte berief sich in den Begründungen auf den Rechtswissenschaftler Wolfgang Mittermaier. Er hielt es für „prinzipienlos“, die „widernatürliche Unzucht“ zwischen Frauen nicht zu strafen – auch wenn diese nicht so häufig auftrete oder in der Öffentlichkeit sichtbar werde.[1] Die Gefahr, die davon für Familie und Jugend ausgehen würde, sei jedoch die gleiche, hieß es dann – direkt auf Mittermaier Bezug nehmend – im Vorentwurf; insofern werde nun die bisher bestehende Ungleichheit beseitigt. 

Auf die in Aussicht gestellte Erweiterung des § 175 auf Frauen gab es unterschiedliche, allerdings vermehrt negative Reaktionen. Von medizinischer und juristischer Seite wurde insbesondere auf die schwierige Bestimmung des Tatbestands bei Frauen hingewiesen. Meist handle es sich „um bloße Masturbation“, die ja – von Männern ausgeführt – nicht strafbar sei, während der bei Männern bestrafte Akt der Penetration bei Frauen physiologisch gar nicht möglich sei.[2]

„Gleiche Rechte, gleiche Strafen? Die erste Frauenbewegung und der § 175“ weiterlesen

Human Rights are not a Pie: against the Antinomical Vision of ‘Women’s Rights’ versus ‘Trans Rights’

Dr. Francesca Romana Ammaturo is Senior Lecturer in Sociology and human rights at the University of Roehampton. Her expertise is in the field of LGBTQI issues and human rights, LGBTQI social movements, European human rights, and European Citizenship.  During the last few years, she has been contributing to the field of LGBTQI+ studies by writing on a range of issues, from homonationalist sexual citizenship in Europe to debates on “gestational surrogacy” in Italy, Pride Events, as well as children’s rights in relation to gender and sexuality. She has published several single-authored articles in international peer-reviewed journals, as well as authored the monograph titled “European Sexual Citizenship: Human Rights, Bodies, and Identities” for Palgrave in 2017. Currently, her research focuses on LGBTQI activism and human rights in Southern Europe.

In recent years, an interesting quote has become popular on social media: ‘equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. It’s not pie’. Beyond its use in popular culture, this statement addresses a relevant question in the philosophy of rights. Namely, whether human rights are a finite resource to be fought for by competing groups who may have partial – or complete – disagreement over their values or needs. 

Human Rights and the Antinomy of Values

In his 1990 book ‘the Age of Rights’, the Italian philosopher Norberto Bobbio addressed the idea that the existence of what he calls the antinomical and heterogeneous character of values, leading to a situation in which concessions made to a specific group of individuals in terms of their human rights would correspond to an undeniable loss of rights for another corresponding group of individuals. In Bobbio’s own words: 

„(…) Final values are antinomical, and cannot all be accomplished universally at the same time. It is necessary for both parties to make concessions in order to achieve them, and the concessions required for this process of conciliation involve personal preferences, political choices and ideological orientations.“
Bobbio, Norberto. 1996. The Age of Rights. Cambridge: Polity Press, p. 5–6.

Under human rights law, this principle is often embodied in the existence of restrictions to some rights that cannot be exercised in an absolute manner. An example is Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) protecting freedom of expression. According to an antinomical vision of rights suggested by Bobbio, for instance, LGBTQI+ friendly speech would be irreconcilable with homo- or transphobic speech. The two are fundamentally rooted in alternate visions of reality: one in which the lives of LGBTQI+ persons are valued and cherished, and one in which they are denied, mocked or vilified.  Whilst this logic seems to make sense, defining in practice what ‘values’ are, is far from being straightforward. 

„Human Rights are not a Pie: against the Antinomical Vision of ‘Women’s Rights’ versus ‘Trans Rights’“ weiterlesen

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) in Times of COVID-19

Annika Orich is Assistant Professor of German at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research centers on the intersection between science and art, debates on multiculturalism and migration, discourses on memory and identity, and questions about humor. Her book project on reproductive imaginations shows how reproductive processes in biology and the arts evoke similar anxieties in the German cultural realm. She has published on Germans’ changing attitudes toward their Nazi past and the function of comedy by immigrants in German identity debates, and her article “Archival Resistance: Reading the New Right” is forthcoming (German Politics and Society).

At the end of April 2020, the BioTexCom Center for Human Reproduction posted a four-minute video about babies in the Ukrainian companies’ care who were born via surrogacy and currently unable to be with their parents due to COVID-19 travel restrictions on its YouTube channel.[1] Sitting in a conference room while reading a prepared statement from a MacBook in his lap, BioTexCom’s lawyer addressed clients around the world who had abruptly been prevented from coming to Kiev to meet and pick up their children. Two seconds into the lawyer’s statement, the camera cuts to and pans across neatly arranged rows of swaddled newborns in hospital baby cots.[2]

The crying of these babies—which is used to drown out the voice of BioTexCom’s lawyer—ultimately alert viewers of the extent to which laws not only regulate the unification of families in times of COVID-19, but also facilitate the very existence of these children. In the Ukraine, commercial surrogacy for infertile heterosexual married couples is legal. In Germany, the Embryo Protection Act bans any form of surrogacy.

BioTexCom produced this video to assure parents of the well-being of their children, and to urge them to obtain travel exemptions. Yet the images of rows of babies waiting to meet their intended mothers and fathers for the first time caused a national and international debate on the ethics of surrogate motherhood and the (non-)regulation of the assisted reproductive technology (ART) market.[3]

„Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) in Times of COVID-19“ weiterlesen

‘I ought not be married as a coloured person’: Rassenmischehen and Categories of Difference in 1920s Southwest Africa

Lisa M. Todd is Associate Professor of History at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada. She holds a PhD from the University of Toronto, an MA from Royal Holloway College, University of London, and a BA from the University of New Brunswick.  Todd’s first monograph, Sexual Treason in Germany during the First World War, appeared in 2017 with Palgrave-Macmillan. Her current project, “Racial Citizenship: Miscegenation, Scientific Authority, and the Creation of Intimate ‘Others’ in Modern Germany, 1880-1950,” examines the anthropological interest in “mixed race” sexual relationships, from the German colonial period, to the end of the Third Reich. 

Background: Post-Genocidal Mixed Marriage Regulations

In 1905, amidst the genocidal violence that accompanied the German-Herero and German-Nama Wars, colonial administrators in German Southwest Africa (SWA, present-day Namibia) introduced a ban on ‘civil marriages between whites and ‘natives.’ Two years later they nullified all so-called mixed marriages that had taken place before 1905. In 1908, a German Imperial Ordinance was published conferring on governors the power to make laws concerning the marriage of Indigenous peoples in Protectorates. In May 1912 the German Reichstag passed a controversial resolution ‘to ensure the validity of marriages between whites and natives in all German colonies’ and to determine the rights of illegitimate children, and in April 1914, the Governor of German Southwest Africa issued a decree allowing for the registration of marriages between Europeans and ‘natives’. The inconsistency of these legal decisions, over the course of only nine years, resulted in trauma to the families involved, but also an uneven implementation of the processes of sexual and racial segregation that accompanied the German occupation of Namibia.[1]

A lively historiography has developed around early twentieth century Rassenmischehen in the colonial sphere, as scholars seek to evaluate how the racialization of space compounded hierarchies of power in settler societies. Sexual ‘race-mixing,’ or miscegenation, presented obstacles to these power structures. White settlers increasingly saw biracial persons as cases in urgent need of categorization: would these people, with the ‘white blood in their veins’ be useful in future European domination, or did their ‘black blood’ mark them as future threats to white supremacy in occupied lands?  Uncertainty about the intersections of race, sexuality, and the law continued past German occupation, and were further complicated when South African authorities introduced their own anti-miscegenation legislation after 1919. The following example illustrates this point.

„‘I ought not be married as a coloured person’: Rassenmischehen and Categories of Difference in 1920s Southwest Africa“ weiterlesen

Walpurgisnacht 1983

© Rita Maier/Schwules Museum, Berlin

Petra Gall © Rita Maier/Schwules Museum, Berlin

Die Frauen* stürmen nach vorne, sie erobern sich die Straße, sie machen sich sichtbar im öffentlichen Raum. Sich an den Händen greifend, stützen und ziehen sie sich gleichermaßen. Vielleicht skandierten sie den damals auf Demonstrationen oft gerufenen Slogan: Wir sind Frauen, wir sind viele und wir haben die Schnauze voll.

Am 30.4.1983 fand in Westberlin die traditionelle Walpurgisnacht-Demo statt. Organisiert wurde sie unter anderem vom „Notruf für Beratung von vergewaltigten Frauen Berlin[1]. Eines der zentralen Themen der Lesben- und Frauenbewegung der 1970er und 80er Jahre war die Auseinandersetzung mit sexueller Gewalt und das Recht auf körperliche und sexuelle Selbstbestimmung. 

„Walpurgisnacht 1983“ weiterlesen