Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 January 2010
The German “Basic Law,” as the Federal Constitution is called, dates from May 23, 1949. It was enacted in the western part of Germany, after Germany had lost World War II, and was strongly influenced by the experience of the Nazi Regime. The Basic Law, therefore, contains a strongly worded list of fundamental rights. Whereas the Basic Law was designed as a temporary constitution until Germany would be united again, unification did not occur in the manner expected. So, instead of designing an entirely new constitution, the Eastern Part adopted the Basic Law with the proviso that it should be amended in some respects (Article 5 of the Unification Treaty). This led to a Constitutional Amendment in 1994, which affected the Article dealing with gender equality (as will be explained later).
Sixteen states comprise the Federal Republic of Germany. Constitutions exist, therefore, on the state level as well as on the federal level. Not all state constitutions contain a fully-fledged fundamental rights catalogue. Many of those that do, however, include some form of gender equality clause. In particular, the constitutions of the “neue Länder,” the states reestablished on the territory of former East Germany, contain constitutional guarantees obliging the state to further real equality between men and women. However, the state constitutions have not played an important role in this area so far.