Tag: feminine

German ministries spar over draft law with feminine nouns

BERLIN — Germany’s Interior Ministry has objected to draft legislation drawn up by the Justice Ministry that uses the feminine form for every reference to people, arguing Monday that it likely would be unconstitutional.

In German, linguistic convention has long called for the masculine form of a word to be used as the default when referring to people of either sex, such as in legislation. But that so-called “generic masculine” has become increasingly controversial, with feminists and others arguing that it is outdated and advocating alternative forms that reflect both genders.

The Justice Ministry — run by center-left Social Democrat Christine Lambrecht — came up with a novel approach in draft legislation on bankruptcy. Instead of the usual masculine forms such as “Verbraucher” (“consumer”) or “Schuldner” (“debtor”), it used only the feminine forms — “Verbraucherin” or “Schuldnerin,” for example.

It is customary in Germany for draft legislation to be discussed with other ministries before it is sent to the Cabinet for approval. In this case, the Interior Ministry — run by veteran conservative Horst Seehofer — wasn’t amused.

Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter said its objection was that “the law potentially would only be valid for women, or for people of female gender, and so would very likely be unconstitutional.” He noted that the use of a “generic feminine” to denote both men and women isn’t currently generally accepted.

Alter said that talks to reach a solution are ongoing. Justice Ministry spokeswoman Ariane Keitel said that a linguistic and legal examination has yet to be concluded and the bill will be reworked before it goes to the Cabinet.

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