Institutions and laws
The AGG, the General Equality Act and the associated Anti-Discrimination Agency, do not apply in higher education, as education is a federal state matter in Germany. The state of Berlin is the only federal state that has an anti-discrimination law at the federal state level, the LADG. All other federal states have a massive protection gap for students here.
Unfortunately, the LADG only came into force in 2019 and came too late in my case. Today, there is the LADG ombudsman's office (use google translate)
that affected persons can turn to. This does not act according to criminal law, but operates under civil law. This means that the burden of proof does not lie with the affected people, as it does in court, including the presumption of innocence for perpetrators. In civil law, the burden of proof lies with the people inflicting the violence. For the affected people, no criminally relevant evidence is required; sufficient circumstantial evidence is sufficient.
This is particularly important in the case of sexualized violence, where there is rarely any evidence. And it would be good if those affected could experience more often that they are believed and that consequences are drawn from the behaviour of the people inflicting the violence. The ombudsman's office can also act for freelancers as long as it can be proven that there is a contract. As usual, a verbal contract is sufficient for this. The ombudsman's office also works with interpreters and is therefore also accessible to people who cannot speak German well enough.
Themis e.V. - Vertrauensstelle für Betroffene von sexuellerisierter Gewalt im Bereich Film und Fernsehen (Confidential Office for people affected by Sexualized Violence in Film and Television) has also existed since 2019, and since 2022 also for the field of music. Affected people receive free legal and psychological counselling and support in discussions with employers.
However, the latter can only take place effectively in employment relationships. It cannot (yet) take place for freelancers, volunteers and students, and the jazz scene is almost exclusively made up of such people.
But the offer for free advice still stands, and Themis encourages freelancers to make use of it.
Furthermore, Themis only deals with cases of sexualized violence, but not other forms of violence and discrimination. This is also a protection gap. Moreover, Themis is not financed by tax money, but by interest groups from the fields of acting and music. So a total final independence from the scene is not given here either.
The problem with these two places is that hardly anyone knows about them.
The Jazz Institute Berlin launched a new homepage a few weeks ago. You won't find anything on the subject of equality and the advisory bodies. On the homepage of the University of the Arts, to which the JIB is affiliated, you won't find anything about the ombudsman's office either. Only information on the internal equal opportunities officers, who cannot work independently.
Withholding such important information from students is part of the epistemic violence that especially adolescents and people with multiple marginalisations have to deal with.
IG Jazz Berlin, the German Jazz Union and the Initiative Musik have also recently launched new homepages. Information on anti-discrimination agencies or even a search function? No such thing. Even the Musikfonds, the largest funding agency for contemporary music, does not link to the anti-discrimination agencies.
In statutes, joint declarations, etc., the topics of equality and discrimination are expressed as vaguely as possible. It would be so easy to put the information about the counselling centres on the homepage, in the newsletter, add it to a scholarship contract, etc. It would be possible to link the awarding of funding to the fact that the recipients have to adhere to the quota presented in the application when implementing the project. Anti-discrimination clauses could be added to the scholarship contracts. There are so many things one could do if only one wanted to. So far, these ideas always fail because the respective institutions do not feel responsible. And that is precisely the reason why they are not trustworthy for those affected by violence. It is made unnecessarily difficult for affected people to get information and help.
Themis has an Instagram account, the ombudsman's office has no social media presence. Online, you can only find information on the page of the city of Berlin, which most people, especially non-native German speakers, have difficulties navigating. Themis has only been responsible for the area of music since last year, and reports that enquiries have been limited so far.
The reform of the Sexual Offences Act only came in 2016. The surrounding discussion was also driven by a racist motive. The racist myth that perpetrators are men from far away countries is still fed by the conservative, as well as the extremist, right. In Germany, the rule "No means no" applies. By definition, this rule legitimises boundary transgressions.
So one is allowed to transgress boundaries first. After all, if a person doesn't want sexual advances, he or she says so. Or do they?
This way of thinking overlooks the fact that precisely because abusers and perpetrators usually come from the immediate environment, strong relationships of dependency make it more difficult and prevent a "no".
It also overlooks the fact that we always choose the safest option for our own protection. In the case of power imbalances, this can mean: We talk ourselves into something. It can mean putting oneself and one’s perception outside of our body. In addition, female socialised people are raised to compromise and male socialised people are raised to take what they want.
This is why many, including myself, have been calling for: "Only yes means yes." In some European countries, this is already the underlying rule of sexual offence law.
How cynical that both this human protective mechanism and the socialisation oriented towards the supposed binary of the sexes are disadvantages for those affected in court. It is equally cynical to set an age of 18 for consensual capacity, when the human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25 at the earliest. And this in a society where informed consent is not taught or practised at all.
Finally, there is rarely evidence of domestic, sexualized and emotional violence that is recognised as such in court or leads to a sentence that is in any way proportionate to the trauma suffered by the affected people.
In contrast, sections 186 and 187 of the Criminal Code protect against defamation and slander. When a person speaks out publicly, that is fairly easy to prove. Thus, in legal practice the presumption of innocence often only applies to the perpetrators. Society still does not understand that the number of convictions does not come close to the number of incidents.
But do we really want to be satisfied with this frustrating record? Or do we finally start to deduce that a person who accepts the threat of legal proceedings, gloating from society and career losses is most likely telling the truth?
Many people do not know that the criminal law isn’t the only instance for regulating community life, and that it is designed to invade the privcy of citizens as late as possible. But there is also the civil law including the employment law. And before that, there are codes of conduct and guidelines. And before that, there is a responsibility as a civil person to live together in solidarity. Let's start right there with our own moral Kompass and not shift our civil responsibility away from us.