The form language may remain male, the highest German civil court has decided.
From the point of view of the BGH, women do not suffer any disadvantage when they are addressed in forms with the “generic masculine”.
The 80-year-old plaintiff Marlies Krämer now wants to fight on – and if necessary pull to the European Court of Justice.
Do women have the right to be addressed in female forms? No, the Federal Supreme Court (BGH) has decided. Accordingly, women suffer no disadvantage when they are addressed in forms as a “customer”, the form language may remain male. The highest German civil court rejected the revision of a savings bank customer from Saarland ( VI ZR 143/17 ).
Marlies Krämer had sued. The 80-year-old does not feel addressed by male phrases such as “customer” or “account holder” and wanted to oblige Sparkasse Saarbrücken to use their forms to talk about account holders and customers.
It’s about justice, not about sensitivities
A woman goes to court because she wants to be addressed by her savings bank as a customer, not as a customer. The verdict could pave the way for a contemporary approach to each other.
Comment by Karin Janker
The German Savings Bank and Giro Association refused and wanted to stick to the “generic masculine”, ie the generalized form, which is grammatically clearly male, but should include all conventional (now controversial) understanding. With the mention of both sexes everything becomes even more complicated, so the argument.
“It is my constitutionally legitimate right that I am recognizable as a woman in speech and writing,” said Krämer. That’s what the VI saw. BGH Civil Senate with its three judges and two judges differently: The generalizing address in male form is neither an interference in the personality right nor a violation of the principle of equality.
Also district and regional court Saarbruecken had already dismissed Kramer’s action. The reasoning of the district court sounded rather traditional. The “generic masculine” is sometimes used sexually neutral, that was already for 2000 years, and thus a “historically grown agreement” and no discrimination. In science, however, there are already studies, according to which, for example, masculine job advertisements discourage women from applying. Had the plaintiff been right, more than 800 different Sparkassen forms would have had to be rewritten. Also for all forms of the contractual language such a judgment could have had consequences.
Although Marlies Krämer is now inferior, she wants to continue fighting. “I definitely go to the Federal Constitutional Court,” she announced in advance. “I can not even imagine that I will be hushed up as a woman.” For the elderly, this is not the first fight of this kind: In the 90s she renounced a passport until she could sign as “owner”. Later, she successfully collected signatures for female weather highs.