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Protection of Young Persons in Germany

In Germany, protection of children and adolescents is under the umbrella of both governmental agencies and non-government organisations (associations)

Association-controlled protection of young persons
Associations for protection of young persons were set up after the end of World War Two in concomitance with protective legislation. Denominational and transdenominational institutions and groups for protection of children and adolescents came into being between 1951 and 1954. Their membership is wide-ranging, from independent institutions of youth welfare and charities to specialised anti-addiction organisations, parent’s councils, unions, professional associations in the areas of medicine and education as well as numerous communal groups. All German states, except for Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, Hesse, Rhineland Palatinate and the State of Saar, have their own youth protection institutions at state level, most of them not tied to governmental agencies. Additional organisations include an Evangelical working party and a Catholic association in North Rhine-Westphalia, a Catholic counterpart in Baden-Württemberg and the Catholic Centre of Social Ethics with its own section for protection of young persons attached to the Conference of German Bishops. All associations and other institutions active across Germany in the fields of youth protection work under the umbrella of a Federal Union for Protection of Young Person (BAJ) which had been established as early as in 1951.

Information and consultancy
The above organisations are involved in advanced training and education and play an active role as multipliers by running consultancy programmes, organising meetings and campaigns and taking care of public relations. Addresses may be obtained from our own home page by clicking Members (Mitglieder) or from the internet by selecting www.jugendschutz.de. Each of the above organisations offers printed information and reference to additional sources, literature databases etc. Bulletins and periodicals are published by some of them as well as by the Federal Union.

Overview of legal provisions
Legal rules and regulations are formally laid down in a great number of laws and provisions.

Social Security Code (child and youth welfare)
The Child and Youth Welfare Act (KJHG) has been integrated with the eighth chapter of the Social Security Code (SGB VIII). Included are numerous rules to support educational and preventive youth protection. Youth welfare, according to § 1, Title 3, No. 3 SGB VIII, is aimed at “protecting children and adolescents from threats to their wellbeing”. While youth protection, according to the definition in that rule, has been declared an all-embracing principle of youth welfare, specific tasks have been formulated in § 14 SGB VIII for educational youth protection. This set of rules is to appeal to the actual target group, i.e. the young people themselves, to enable them to take care of themselves and “protect themselves from dangerous influences” and to develop “critical attitudes, independent judgement and a sense of responsibility” (§ 14, Title 2, No. 1). It is also aimed at parents and other custodial persons to help them protecting children and adolescents from such dangerous influences (§ 14, Title 2, No. 2). Standards have been established for educational measures. They are above all important for their wide-ranging potentials of information, enlightenment and dialogue, so that lifestyle aspects and ways for successful growth can be discussed in greater depths with the young people proper as well as their parents, teachers and other educators.

Youth protection in the Penal Code
Protection has been formally laid down also in the Penal Code, with these elements being limited to unlawful behaviour with a detrimental impact on society. Most of these provisions are relating to offences of sexual abuse and are specified in §§ 174-184c, StGB. “Sexual self-determination” is the key motto.

§ 176 StGB, for example, applies to sexual abuse of children, while § 180 StGB provides for punishment of individuals who abet sexual action on minors, with emphasis being laid on prevention of prostitution. Sexual abuse limited to persons under the age of 16 years is the topic of § 182 StGB. Importance must be attributed also to § 184 StGB on punishability of dissemination of printed and other media of pornographic nature. Pornography is defined as rude presentation of sexual situations in which human beings are reduced to subjects of sexual lust or acts. Particular attention had to be given in recent years to such presentations in the internet.

Instigation of activities to endanger public order is another punishable act (§ 130 StGB), for example, stirring up hatred against national, ethnic, racial or religious groups, and glorification of violence (§ 131 StGB) primarily on music CDs, the internet and in other modern media through which today such damaging trends may be publicised more widely than before. The general public in Germany, on account of their specific historic experience, has become particularly sensitive to combinations of such trends and activities with extremist right-wing orientations. Reference has to be made, in this context, to §§ 86 and 86a StGB in which the dissemination of propaganda and use of symbols of anti-constitutional organisations are defined as criminal offences. Sizeable numbers of young people, unfortunately, are being put under custody of youth welfare authorities because of offences already committed or imminent. That issue is covered by § 171 StGB on neglect of custodial and educational duties towards people under the age of 16 years.

Youth protection in public life
Youth protection in public life is provided in the form of limitations on the sale of tobacco products and alcohol, age limits on unguided access to restaurants and dance parties, age-related release of or ban on movies, videos as well as computer games and game machines in gambling halls. Relevant provisions are part of the Protection of Young Persons Act (JuSchG) which is enclosed in full text to this overview. Many of those age-related rules do not apply to young people with parental or custodial guidance. More information may be obtained from “Parental Information on Youth Protection” in the Appendix.

Protection from harmful effects of media
This set of rules covers all legal provisions to protect young people from exposure to undesirable influence resulting from literature and other printed media, music, videos, DVDs films and internet presentations. Some of these sources of undesirable influence were covered until 2003 by the Act on Distribution of Printed Matter and Media Harmful to Young People (GjSM) and were implemented under the control of a Federal Review Board for Publications Harmful to Young People which used procedures on the basis of an Index List. Indexed media are subject to limitations on distribution. The GjSM has been partially amended and enlarged (Interstate Convention for Protection of Young People from Harmful Media - JMStV) and has been integrated with the Protection of Young Persons Act. The system of protection from harmful effects of radio and TV programmes used to be based on an interstate broadcasting convention. Now, i.e. since 2003, private broadcasting stations and internet providers have as well come under the control of the interstate convention which covers parts of the original GjSM. (The German text of the JMStV is available in our home page under the heading of “Gesetzliche Vorschriften”.

Employment safety for young people
The regulations to ensure safety at work for young employees have been formulated for the purpose of protecting children and adolescents from physical and psychological exploitation and exposure to dangerous jobs. These issues are covered by an Employment of Young Persons Act (JArbSchG) which includes age-related provisions on working hours, compulsory rest and protection from high-risk activities. Some provisions are relating to hiring of children for theatre and music performances and assignment to media studios. The German text of the above JArbSchG may as well be obtained from our home page by clicking “Gesetzliche Vorschriften”.
[From: Nikles/Roll/Spürck/Umbach: Jugendschutzrecht. Neuwied 2003, pp. 11-17)

Our former colleague Katrin Schwarze explained the task and the aims of the BAJ on a meeting with diplomats (March 25th. 2010).

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