Doreen Denstädt becomes eastern Germany’s first black minister

Former policewoman Doreen Denstädt became the first black minister in ex-communist eastern Germany on Wednesday, taking over the justice and migration brief in a hotbed of right-wing extremism.

Former policewoman Doreen Denstädt became the first black minister in ex-communist east Germany on Wednesday.
Former policewoman Doreen Denstädt became the first black minister in ex-communist east Germany on Wednesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Martin Schutt

Denstädt, 45, belongs to the Greens and assumed the office in Thuringia state from Dirk Adams, who was fired after his management of immigration policy lost the support of the ecologist party.

Thuringia is governed by a fractious coalition of the far-left Linke party, the Social Democrats and the Greens who formed a bulwark against the far-right AfD party, which is polling at around 30 percent.

The state chapter of the AfD, an anti-migrant, anti-Muslim party, is considered particularly radical and has been placed under surveillance by the
domestic security watchdog, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

“If you like the constitution in Thuringia, you’re considered a leftist,” Denstädt, whose Tanzanian father studied in Germany, told the daily Tagesspiegel.

“I can be visible – after all I always stood out in a white-majority society, whether I wanted to or not.”

Denstädt, whose new office oversees the judicial system as well as migrant and refugee affairs, has said she intends to be a voice for victims of crime, racism and discrimination.

She noted that she as a German citizen is regularly asked to show her residency papers and does not ride public transportation at night for fear of racist attacks.

READ ALSO: Black people in Germany face ‘widespread’ racism, study finds

Denstädt, who only entered politics in 2021, faced a deluge of hate speech online when it was announced she would become a minister.

But she said she has also received widespread encouragement and support for her highly visible new position.

“An incredible number of people got in touch to say they’re proud of me and hopeful about what I can do,” she told Tagesspiegel.

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Germany simplifies gender change procedure

Germany's government has agreed to simplify the administrative procedure for people wanting to change gender, a move long demanded by the LGBTQ community, a spokesman for the ruling party said Saturday.

Germany simplifies gender change procedure

 “As a parliamentary group of the (ruling) SPD, we expressly welcome the fact that the law on self-determination is finally moving forward,” Jan Plobner, spokesman for the Social Democrat party on issues concerning transgender people in the Bundestag, told AFP.

Under the agreement, which was revealed by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, transgender, intersex and non-binary people will in future have only to self-declare if they wish to change their first name or gender notation in the civil registry.

The procedure had been governed by a law dating from the 1980s that considered trans issues mental illness.

Those wanting to change their gender have been obliged to submit two psychological evaluations with a court ultimately taking the decision. That procedure is long, costly and deemed degrading by those concerned.

“The undignified procedure will soon be a thing of the past,” Plobner said.

The agreement between the justice and family ministries will allow the bill to be finalised, “so that the legislation can hopefully be applied soon,” said Sven Lehmann, the government’s representative for the rights of the LGBTQ community.

It notably resolves the sensitive issue of gender changes for minors, according to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

For those under 14, only parents or guardians will be able to initiate proceedings.

For those over 14 whose parents would oppose such a move, it is a court that will have to decide.

A time for reflection is also planned, with the civil change only coming into effect after a cooling off period of three months.

A new request for a gender change will only be possible after a year.

The government of Social Democrat Chancellor Olaf Scholz, allied with the Greens and Liberals, has vowed to fight discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

In November 2022, it adopted a wide-ranging plan of action that included a specific codification of the community’s rights in the constitution.