Events were held across Germany on Monday (12 November) to mark the centennial anniversary of women’s right to vote.
“Today, no one will laugh when a little girl says she wants to be a minister or the German chancellor,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said at an event in Berlin. She however warned against setbacks in women’s rights. The fact Germany has a female chancellor “must not be an alibi” for shortcomings, she said.
“Women’s suffrage is great, but it’s not enough,” Federal Family and Women’s Minister Franziska Giffey added during the debate, marking the milestone. “Even today, women must continue to fight: for equal pay for equal work, for the compatibility of family and career, for the upgrading of social professions and for protection against violence.”
Women gained the right to vote on 12 November 1918 during the transition period from imperial rule to the Weimar Republic. Though a significant development, there were many struggles for German women for emancipation to overcome.
Until 1977, the Civil Code dictated that women should not work without their husband’s consent and up until 1958, a man was able to terminate the employment contract of his wife without her consent and without notice.
The topic of women’s suffrage remains relevant in Germany today, say analysts.
They say equal rights are yet to be achieved in many areas of life, including the labour market with a national gender pay gap of 21 percent and even in politics. Despite having a female chancellor, the proportion of women in the Bundestag fell to 31 percent at the last general election, the same level it had been in 1998. Women also remain a minority in every single one of Germany’s 16 state parliaments and only 18 percent of Germany’s mayors are women.
“The goal is parity between women and men in all areas of society,” Merkel said.
“Women are capable of anything,” said Giffey. “The fight for more women’s rights continues.”