Wikipedia on German law

The English Wikipedia deals with German law among other topics, and how it’s put into English might be of interest.

In mid-December, the daily article featured was on Paragraph/Section 175 of the German Criminal Code, which made homosexual acts illegal. It had been abolished in East Germany but was not abolished in West or united Germany till 1994. It was pointed out to me that some of the discussion dealt with translation into English.

Today, the featured article was on Henry VIII, who introduced the first legislation against homosexuality in England or any other ‘Germanic country’.

bq. Some have suggested that zoophilia was specifically included because of the fear of hybrid births.

The mooted translation relates to the version of June 28, 1935 and the problem term is “Unzucht treiben”, which replaced “widernatürlich Unzucht treiben”.

I can’t see a huge problem in comparison with other legal translation. If the change from the earlier version of the statute is important, there will have to be a translator’s note. It is suggested that

“…mit einem anderen Mann Unzucht treibt oder sich von ihm zur Unzucht missbrauchen lässt”.

is translated as:

“commits lewdness (as the active partner) with another man or allows such an abuse to be done to him”
“engages as the active or passive partner in lewdness with another man”.

Lister and Veth and Dietl give for Unzucht “sexual offence”, “illicit sexual act”, “illicit sexual practices”; Romain has, inter alia, “indecency, lewd acts, debauchery, fornication”. Von Beseler/Jacobs-Wüstefeld has a number of these too.

It’s interesting to see this on Wikipedia, partly because there’s evidence of some discussion on the translation. The references include a link to the German-language Wikipedia article. That adds the factoid that May 17th was sometimes called the gays’ holiday (17.5 / 175).

Here’s part of the discussion:

bq. Jmabel 07:04, Sep 9, 2004 (UTC)
I’ve written most parts of the German article and will review the English translation within the next few days (you’ve really done good work as far as I can see!). I’ve already corrected some slight mistakes. But I hope, you will check my corrections, too, with respect to linguistics, because I’m never sure if “one can say that in English”. One last question: Is it really necessary to provide so much German vocabulary in brackets? I don’t think, it necessarily helps understanding to know the legal terms in the original. –Amys 21:28, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)

bq. I’ve kept them because legal terms don’t always line up exactly. If you are confident that the English term is a precise equivalent, feel free to delete the German. However, for example, I think it is absolutely necessary to include the discussion of Unsucht, on which so much turns, and I think honesty requires including the problematic Schutzhaft, which can be translated to two very different meanings in English, as we’ve discussed at Image talk:Gestapo anti-gay telex.jpg. It’s one thing for me to translate it as “preventive detention”, it’s another to hide the fact that I’m translating an ambiguous phrase. — Jmabel 23:55, Sep 9, 2004 (UTC)

I agree about the use of German terms in brackets.

There’s another interesting article on German legal citation. Goodness gracious, it even quotes me (a messy entry of mine on quoting statutes).

1 thought on “Wikipedia on German law

  1. Schutzhaft – Google shows that an HIV girl sufferer was taken into protective custody (often in inverted commas) by Aussie police, but made a ward of court in the UK where such custody is also possible for an adult ‘suspect’s own good’.

    On an Unzucht-allied theme, the well-known German tabloid, Die Bildzeitung, had an article a couple of weeks about a brother & sister in which a distinction was made between Inzucht (inbreeding) and Inzest (act of incest).

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