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East German Minister of Justice, Hilde Benjamin: "Who Has the Say in the Family?" (February 1, 1958)

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This new legal status that the wife possesses vis-à-vis the children further exhibits itself very clearly when the husband dies or when the spouses are divorced. In case of the husband’s death or the wife’s remarriage, it was characteristic of the previous law that the woman lost the so-called parental power, that is to say, she was no longer the legal representative of the child, which had to be given to a guardian. But if the wife died and the husband married again, he naturally remained the legal representative.

The lesser status of women had an even more profound effect in civil law when the spouses were divorced. Although it was possible, especially with younger children, to transfer the care for the child to the mother, the father always remained the legal representative of the child. The work and care of the children was thus readily left to the woman; but if an important decision was to be made, say about the question of signing an apprentice contract for the child, the divorced husband stepped forward and had the final word.

By our law, the parent to whom the care for the child is transferred after the divorce becomes fully and solely responsible for the child.

In the German Democratic Republic, the state and the government, under the leadership of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, not only give women the same rights as men in every area, but they also give women the possibility to utilize those rights.

Source: Neues Deutschland, February 1, 1958; reprinted in Dierk Hoffmann and Michael Schwartz, eds., Geschichte der Sozialpolitik in Deutschland seit 1945. Bd. 8: 1949-1961: Deutsche Demokratische Republik. Im Zeichen des Aufbaus des Sozialismus [History of Social Policy in Germany since 1945, Vol. 8: 1949-1961: German Democratic Republic. Under the Sign of the Build Up of Socialism]. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2004, no. 8/180.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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