Marital Rape and Women’s Rights in the Federal Republic of Germany

Jane Freeland is an historian of women and gender in modern Germany. She is currently a research fellow at the German Historical Institute London, where she coordinates the International Standing Working Group on Medialization and Empowerment. She holds a PhD from Carleton University (Canada) and is completing a monograph on domestic violence activism in divided Berlin.

On April 14, 1976, the illustrated news magazine Stern ran a special report on rape in marriage in the Federal Republic of Germany. “Rape,” it began, “It was until today a matter of sexual offenders, perverts, criminals. …for the first time it is now revealed that nowhere is rape committed more than in the marital bed.”[1] Surveying women throughout the Federal Republic on sex and intimacy in marriage, including their experiences of marital rape, for the first time the report revealed that in one in five marriages in West Germany women were raped by their husbands. It further showed that in a majority of cases marital rape was violent, and closely connected with physical and emotional abuse. “The bed,” it seemed to reporter Ulrich Schippke “has become a battleground.”[2]

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