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Grundgesetz – Article 3: Equality

Article 3 concerns equality in front of the law.

It stipulates:

  1. Alle Menschen sind vor dem Gesetz gleich.
  2. Männer und Frauen sind gleichberechtigt. Der Staat fördert die tatsächliche Durchsetzung der Gleichberechtigung von Männern und Frauen und wirkt auf die Beseitigung bestehender Nachteile hin.
  3. Niemand darf wegen seines Geschlechts, seiner Abstammung, seiner Rasse, seiner Sprache, seiner Heimat und Herkunft, seines Glaubens, seiner religiösen oder politischen Anschauungen benachteiligt oder bevorzugt werden. Niemand darf wegen seiner Behinderung benachteiligt werden.

Let us dissect and translate this article by paragraph.

Paragraph 1 states:

All people are equal in front of the law.

The law is only occupied with a theoretical being. Whether people are or are not equal in actual life is of no concern. No one may be more equal than others.

Paragraph 2 states:

Men and women have equal rights. The state promotes the actual enforcement of the equality of men and women and works to eradicate existing disadvantages.

Eradicating existing injustices often involves creating a temporary state of other unjustness, swaying towards the other direction to counter a dangerous existing lean. Whether affirmative action can be construed from this is dubious.

Paragraph 3 states:

No one may be disadvantaged or favoured based on his gender, his heritage, his race, his language, his home and origin, his faith, his religious or political convictions. No one may be disadvantaged because of his disability.

A very abstract one. Again, high aspirations that are difficult to implement. This paragraph seems toothless as a piece of law, as it is bound to be pierced by subsequent articles on freedom of choice, freedom of religion, asylum law, and the factor that while the law may be blind, people are not. It should be understood purely concerning equality in front of the law, not as guidance in civil courts.

In conclusion, this article tries to reconcile the ways in which people are different with their treatment in front of the law.

This article is part 4 of the “Grundgesetz” series.