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Germany is considering introducing feminine forms for military ranks, according to reports, 20 years after women gained the right to join the Bundeswehr.

The army has resisted using the feminine form even after women gained the right to join in 2000. A female captain in the Bundeswehr is addressed as Frau Hauptmann, the equivalent of “Mrs Captain”.

But the defence minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, is now mulling the phasing in of feminine forms for military ranks, such as Majorin and Leutnantin, according to Die Welt.

Such a move would follow the usage in the German language, where occupations usually go with the grammatically masculine form of the noun, but if the job is carried out by a woman, the job title is feminised by adding the suffix “in”, so a male bus driver is der Busfahrer and a female bus driver is die Busfahrerin.

Some ranks, including Oberst – colonel – however, would stay in the generic masculine form, said the report, citing a white paper that it said the minister would decide on next Tuesday. The German defence ministry would not confirm the report.

The Bundeswehr opened its ranks to women only after Tanja Kreil brought a case before the European court of justice in 2000. A trained electrician, Kreil argued her application to the Bundeswehr was rejected not because of her qualifications but because of her gender.

Women now make up about 12% of army personnel. Eva Högl, the German parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, told Süddeutsche Zeitung on Friday that “a 30% share of women in the Bundeswehr would be good for the troops”, but that female recruits were “currently not everywhere respected equally”.

Some female soldiers criticised the proposed change on social media. Wiebke Hönicke, a lieutenant who used the masculine form to describe her rank, said in a post on Instagram: “Gender equality for me means that military rank doesn’t differentiate between genders, but that it is about the same rights and duties.”