Parity Laws in Germany

Recently, the Thüringian State Constitutional Court struck down a new law requiring parity with regard to party lists for state elections in response to a challenge brought by the populist far-right Alternative for Deutschland. Many of the AfD’s and the male-dominated court’s arguments against the law are common worldwide in debates about quotas. In an increasing number of democracies around the globe, however, quotas have not only survived constitutional challenges but have come to be seen as an essential mechanism for achieving political equality. Empirical research has determined many common concerns about quotas are unfounded. Here I provide some responses to the AfD’s and the Court’s worries about the law, drawn from the extensive political science literature on gender quotas.

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Electoral Quotas for Women

Electoral quotas for women (‘EQW’) have become a world trend, raising questions about their constitutionality in different legal systems. This short piece attempts to summarize some of the main issues involved in this debate and the courts’ approach to it. The text concludes by offering some general criteria to assess the constitutionality of EQW.

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Gender Quotas and the Injuries to Electoral Freedom

Last week’s decision by the Thuringia state constitutional court to invalidate parity legislation destabilizes a widespread understanding of the German constitutional law of sex equality as seen from outside. Because Article 3.2 of the German Basic Law (GG) since 1994 has explicitly stated that “the state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men, and eradicating disadvantages that now exist,” it was long assumed by jurists and scholars throughout the world that gender parity measures to overcome women’s disadvantage or underrepresentation in positions of power were permitted, if not encouraged, by German constitutional law. By invalidating the parity legislation, the Thuringia constitutional court calls this understanding into question.

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Parity laws in Germany – Caving in to Gender Backlash or Consolidating Women’s Citizenship Status?

In this contribution we examine the German developments in light of broader European debates. Though we believe that the German Basic Law can support stronger arguments for parity laws in representative political institutions, we do not need to make such stronger arguments here to defend the constitutionality of parity laws. For what is at stake is ultimately a question of legislative discretion: whether German legislatures are allowed to pass parity laws as a matter of state and federal constitutional law. Such legislative discretion is particularly appropriate where the constitutional text itself provides no clear standards, academic commentators disagree and where – as in this case – there exists a significant European trend towards adopting gender quotas with regional and international institutions repeatedly encouraging the adoption of such laws.

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