Guest article “Smart women fighting for gender justice”

This year saw a film released in Germany depicting the struggle of Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the equal rights of women and men in the USA: “On the Basis of Sex” (released in Germany as “Die Berufung – Ihr Kampf für die Gerechtigkeit“). Bader Ginsburg has been a US Supreme Court Justice for many years, and through her legal knowledge and skill she has fought against the closed ranks of men for equality, achieving a number of basic rulings – which are similar to the articles of German Basic Law.

Elisabeth Selbert should also be mentioned in this context as part of the history of the Federal Republic of Germany. After the war, she sat on the Parliamentary Council (Parlamentarisches Rat) to formulate what would become German Basic Law. In the face of all opposition and against a seemingly all-powerful world of men, she was able to ensure that German Basic Law explicitly included “Men and women shall have equal rights”. Nevertheless, there were several legal provisions that contradicted this. At that time, Section 1628 of the Civil Code (BGB), for example, prescribed that the father had the final word of authority in matters of education and upbringing. Ultimately, the patriarchy was granted a preferential right, in clear contradiction to the Basic Law.

Dr. Erna Scheffler was the only woman among the judges of the Federal Constitutional Court, which was established in 1951. With clever argumentation, she was able to overturn the unconstitutional wording of the paternal right to final decision. The court ruling of 1959 caused a storm of indignation among the supporters of a patriarchal family order. (Further reading in “Zeithistorische Forschungen” Online edition, 2 (2005)).

In recent years in Germany, the question has been raised whether people with the medical diagnosis “diverse sex development” (DSD), or intersex persons, should be independently recognised alongside female and male persons in the Personal Status Code (PStG). In a law of 2013, it was required that, apart from female or male, these individuals must be registered as “unregistered”, i.e. effectively without gender affiliation.

It is in this context that Prof. Dr. Konstanze Plett has rendered outstanding services to the legal recognition of intersex people. As the legal representative of an individual and with the collaboration of jurist Prof. Dr. Friederike Wapler and lawyer Katrin Niedenthal, she submitted to the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) so many expert opinions and international statements that the BVerfG was compelled to rule in this person’s favour: With her clever argumentation, she succeeded in dismantling the binarity of the sexes, the legally defined gender binary. The rights of individuals who do not fit into the scheme of only man or only woman – the BVerfG spoke of the “third option” – were recognised by the BVerfG in 2017. This legal recognition of a third option is the crucial factor. It is independent of whether many people or only a few officially acknowledge the newly formulated status of “diverse”.

Platt’s decoration as Member of the Order of Merit, an honour which was conferred on her by the Federal Minister of Education and Science in mid-March 2019, was also a result of her many publications in the fight for the human rights of intersex people.

Jörg Woweries, Berlin

Inter-sex gets positive: Landmark decision of the Federal Constitutional Court

A reason to celebrate – persistence pays off!

“Yes to the third sex” (SZ), “Neither man nor woman”, “The future – unisex?” (FAZ), “Revolutionary” (Die Welt), “Three wins” (taz) – Headlines translated from German from 8 November 2017


The plaintiff, Vanja, did not give up. Only a year ago, her_his lawsuit was rejected by the Federal Court of Justice. Now the judges of the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, the highest court in the country, have ruled in her_his favour. In the constitutional complaint, Vanja brought an action against the current Personal Status Code, which previously only allowed two positive sex markers and, since 2013, a further, “empty” sex marker. Continue reading “Inter-sex gets positive: Landmark decision of the Federal Constitutional Court”

Positive response and constructive debate at the HOOU: Successful intersex symposium at UKE

The symposium “Intersex Controversies” on 22 November 2017 was the second symposium hosted by the HOOU Intersex-Kontrovers project. The response was tremendous and the ballroom in Erika-Haus at the UKE in Hamburg was fully booked. Prof. Peer Briken, Director of the Institute for Sex Research and Forensic Psychiatry at the UKE, opened the event.The initiator, Dr Katinka Schweizer, was delighted that so many people accepted the invitation. She introduced the host project along with all the guests, and moderated throughout the afternoon. Continue reading “Positive response and constructive debate at the HOOU: Successful intersex symposium at UKE”

EuroPSI conference in Jerusalem: Building bridges

This year’s conference of the EuroPSI network (European Network for Psychosocial Studies in Intersex) will take place from 6 to 7 September 2017 in Jerusalem, Israel, at the Hebrew University. The conference topic is “Building Disciplinary Bridges for Research and Recognition of Intersexed Bodies”. You can view the conference programme here:

Co-hosts of the conference include the Martin Buber Society of Fellows.

I-DSD symposium in Copenhagen

The I-DSD symposium took place in Copenhagen from 29 June to 1 July 2017. In addition to medical topics, the discussion addressed psychosocial issues (e.g. the care situation and psychosocial screening) and ethical aspects (e.g. in connection with fertility). Ute Lampalzer presented initial results from research connected with the HOOU project “Intersex-Kontrovers” (see here).

EuroPSI meeting in Jerusalem

This year’s EuroPSI network conference will take place in Jerusalem, Israel. The host is Dr. Limor M. Dannon from the Hebrew University.

Date: 6/7 September 2017

Conference location: Jerusalem, Hebrew University, Mount Scopus

Information and registration:

EuroPSI was founded in 2013 and stands for European Network for Psychosocial Studies in Intersex/dsd (diverse sex development).

The previous conferences were held in London (2014), Vienna (2015), and Guildford/Surrey, UK (2016).

Interviews with professional experts

In this contribution you can watch interviews with a range of professional experts. Dr. Ute Lampalzer has interviewed experts who have been dealing with intersex, the body and gender in their work over a long period of time.

We would like to thank the interviewees for their time and openness and for their consent to publication.

The following interviews can already be seen here:

Dr. Michael Groneberg, philosopher

Prof. Dr. phil. Konstanze Plett, jurist

Dr. med. Wilhelm Preuss, psychiatrist and sex researcher

Fabian Vogler, sculptor

Dr. phil. Katinka Schweizer, psychologist