The German constitution is known as the Grundgesetz. The constitution contains the most important legal and political rules for the Federal Republic of Germany. For instance the constitution states that Germany is a democratic state. That means that everyone has the right to participate in politics, for example in associations, initiatives, unions or parties.
The political parties have various agendas and goals. The main parties are the SPD (German Social Democratic Party), CDU (Christian Democratic Union), Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (The Green Party), FDP (Free Democratic Party), AfD (Alternative for Germany) and Die Linke (the Left Party). There are many other smaller parties besides.
The constitution also contains the rights and responsibilities of people in Germany. Important responsibilities include compulsory school attendance: children and young people in Germany have to go to school. Then there is the tax liability: anyone who earns money has to pay taxes. And the obligation to keep within the law: everyone has to obey the law.
And these are the most important rights:
Human dignity: you must respect all people.
Equal rights: All people have equal rights.
For instance men and women have equal rights.
Equality before the law: All people are equal before the law.
Right to freedom of expression: People can say what they think.
Freedom of assembly: People are allowed to meet in groups.
Freedom of movement: People are allowed to live and reside where they wish.
Freedom to engage in an occupation: People are allowed free choice of their occupation.
Further rights include protection of marriage and family, the right to vote and religious freedom.
The right to vote states that people in Germany are allowed to vote. And they are allowed to be elected. Elections must be secret, general and free. There are European elections, parliamentary elections, state elections and local elections. All EU citizens living in Germany are allowed to vote at the EU elections and the local elections. Normally voting is from 18 years and over. In some federal states you can already vote in local elections from the age of 16. In state elections and parliamentary elections voters must be German citizens aged at least 18 to vote.
In many places there are integration councils or integration committees. They are normally elected by migrants. Integration committees work for the political interests of migrants. They also help with questions and problems. The aim of this work is to improve the way immigrants and Germans live together.
Religious freedom means that everyone is free to choose their own religion and practise it. Around one-third of people in Germany officially has no religion. Most Germans belong to the Christian religion, in other words they are Roman Catholic or Protestant. Many Christian holidays such as Christmas or Easter are public holidays. That means that most people do not have to work on these days. But many members of other religions also live in Germany.
Schools offer Protestant and Catholic-based religious studies. In some schools religious studies is also available with a Christian Orthodox, Jewish or Islamic orientation. Parents can decide whether their child should receive religious instruction. They also decide what kind of religious instruction their child should receive.
In Germany, sexual orientation may be openly exhibited. This means that same-sex love, bi-, trans- and inter-sexuality are as much part of everyday life as heterosexuality. The LGBTQ movement also plays an important role in Germany. This comprises the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities. They are protected in Germany. The rainbow flag is the symbol of the LGBT movement.
Since 1 October 2017, same-sex couples in Germany have been able to marry, with all rights and obligations of marriage. This means, for example, that they may adopt children, similarly to heterosexual couples, if they meet the necessary requirements.
If rights are not upheld, this may be seen in some cases as discrimination. Please have a look at the section on our web portal.
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Frequently asked questions
There is a major public holiday in my religion. Does my child still have to go to school?
In some federal states you can exempt your child from lessons for religious feast days. Ask the teachers.
I would like to work for the integration council. What can I do?
You can find more information about this from the integration council office in your town or city and from the Federal Council of Immigration and Integration, from Migration advice for adult immigrants and from the Youth Migration Services (JMD).
Bundeszuwanderungs- und Integrationsrat
Youth Migration Services (JMD)
I have legal problems. Who can help me?
The Youth Migration Services (JMD) help children and young adults up to the age of 27. Migration advice for adult immigrants helps adults. You can also contact a legal advice centre.
Youth Migration Services (JMD)
How do I find churches/mosques/synagogues and religious communities in my area?
You can find out more information about this at city hall or at Migration Advice.
Further questions? Write us via the contact form. We will forward your questions anonymously to the advisors of the youth migration services.Contact form