Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, are statutory offenses for which penalties range from one to 10 years in prison. The government effectively prosecuted individuals accused of such crimes.
NGOs such as Terre des Femmes, Vivre Sans Violence, and the umbrella organization for women’s shelters noted that violence against women remained a serious problem. Domestic violence against migrant women was four times higher than against nonmigrant women. The law penalizes domestic violence and stalking. A court may order an abusive spouse to leave the family home temporarily.
Specialized government agencies, numerous NGOs, and nearly a dozen private or government-sponsored hotlines provided help, counseling, and legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence. According to the NGO Umbrella Organization for Swiss Women’s Shelters, more than 1,000 women and children were unable to be housed by shelters due to a lack of space and financing. Most cantonal police forces included specially trained domestic violence units.
The women’s NGO Alliance F observed a rise in violence against women and an increase in violent messages and images on social media directed at women. In one prominent case, on August 8, a group of men assaulted five young women in the early morning hours outside a nightclub in Geneva. Two of the women suffered severe head injuries, with one reportedly left in a coma. Public shock and outcry over the attack sparked protests in Geneva, Zurich, Bern, Basel, and Lausanne. According to press reports, in September, French authorities arrested three suspects in the attack, all of whom were French nationals, and took over investigation of the case.
On November 25, the NGO Feminist Peace Organization organized a campaign supported by several cantonal governments on the influence of gender stereotypes on violence against women. Approximately 50 organizations participated, and they sponsored 70 public awareness events across the country.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. The first-ever criminal sentence under the anti-FGM/C law was handed down during the year. In July the criminal court of Boudry in the canton of Neuchatel issued an eight-month suspended prison sentence against a Neuchatel-based Somali woman who ordered between 2013 and 2015 the full or partial removal of her six- and seven-year-old daughters’ genitalia while in Somalia and Ethiopia.
According to the latest available statistics, the University Hospital of Zurich treated up to 30 cases of FGM/C each year, while the women’s clinic in the canton of St. Gallen recorded approximately five cases each year. Hospitals in Basel also confirmed cases of FGM/C in their clinics. According to government and NGO estimates, approximately 15,000 women and girls, primarily from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt, were affected by, or at risk of, FGM/C.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and facilitates legal remedies for those claiming discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Special legal protection against the dismissal of a claimant expires after six months. Employers failing to take reasonable measures to prevent sexual harassment are liable for damages up to the equivalent of six months’ salary.
The cantonal police of Bern, the Zurich city police, and the city government of Lausanne conducted public information campaigns against sexual harassment during the year. Lausanne city officials also established an online platform for victims to record instances of sexual harassment and provided extra training to police officers and teachers on the matter.
A national survey published in April 2017 by local newspaper 20 Minuten found that 44 percent of 2,700 surveyed women had experienced sexual assault at least once in their lives, while 41 percent had experienced sexual harassment, and 3 percent were victims of rape.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The constitution and the law generally provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. A study commissioned by the Federal Office for Gender Equality and published in June 2017 by the University of Geneva found that lawsuits regarding salary discrimination were the most numerous.
Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from one’s parents; either parent may convey citizenship. Authorities registered births immediately.
Child Abuse: Child abuse was a significant problem. A study by the UBS Optimus Foundation found that up to 50,000 children are registered with child protection authorities each year due to child abuse. According to statistics by the Swiss Society of Pediatrics, child abuse cases rose 10 percent in 2017, to 1,730 cases. The most common form of child abuse was neglect, with cases almost doubling to a total of 657 cases in 2017.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. The law prohibits forced marriage and provides penalties of up to five years in prison for violations. The federal government announced in January it would financially support the NGO Organization against Forced Marriage in its prevention activities over the next four years, including maintaining a website where at-risk individuals could declare their unwillingness to be married while on foreign travel. The website enabled authorities either to stop vulnerable individuals from leaving the country or to pronounce the marriages as invalid upon their return.
In 2017 the NGO Organization against Forced Marriage recorded 107 child marriages, of which 43 cases concerned children younger than the age of 16. The NGO partly attributed the rise in child marriages to the growing numbers of Syrian refugees who reportedly arrange marriages for their daughters in refugee camps to protect them from sexual assault, as well as to the increasing social awareness of the problem in schools and asylum centers.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The production, possession, distribution, or downloading of internet pornography that involves children is illegal and punishable by fines or a maximum sentence of one year in prison. With few exceptions, the law designates 16 as the minimum age for consensual sex. The maximum penalty for statutory rape is imprisonment for 10 years. The mandate of the federal police Cybercrime Coordination Unit included preventing and prosecuting crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children online.
The law prohibits prostitution of persons younger than the age of 18 and punishes pimps of children subjected to trafficking in commercial sex with prison sentences of up to 10 years. It provides for sentences of up to three years in prison for persons engaging in commercial sex with children.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
According to the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG/FSCI), approximately 18,000 Jewish individuals resided in the country.
The 2017 Anti-Semitism Report, produced jointly by the SIG/FSCI and the Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism, cited 39 anti-Semitic incidents (excluding anti-Semitic online hate speech) in the German-speaking part of the country in 2017. The SIG/FSCI attributed the increase in recorded anti-Semitic statements and acts to a potential improvement in the reporting behavior of the public. The report documented four physical assaults against Jews.
In 2017 the Geneva-based Intercommunity Center for Coordination against Anti-Semitism and Defamation reported 150 anti-Semitic incidents in the French-speaking region. The report noted an increase in right-wing extremist activities and anti-Semitic incidents motivated by the myth of a global Jewish conspiracy controlling the world. The report also observed a steep rise in anti-Semitic incidents on social media and a growing trivialization of the Holocaust. In July the federal government decided to allocate 500,000 Swiss francs ($500,000) annually to education and awareness efforts aimed at improving the protection of religious minorities, notably the Jewish and Muslim communities. The decision followed an October 2017 report by the Ministry of Interior, in which the government described the protection of Jewish institutions as an “issue of national importance.”
In July a German national armed with a knife yelled anti-Semitic statements while following three Jews on their way to a Zurich synagogue. Police arrested the man the same evening and released him shortly afterwards.
In August the leadership of the centrist Conservative Democratic Party (BDP) expelled a Thurgau cantonal politician from the party after he tweeted that Adolf Hitler could not have been “endlessly bad” and that he did not just see an “evil tyrant” in Hitler. He later apologized for his tweet. The BDP stated any minimization of Nazi atrocities is unacceptable.
In October a kosher butcher shop in Basel was vandalized four times in one month. Police were investigating what the community president called “anti-Semitic attacks,” and the secretary general of the SIG/FSCI told the press the incidents were “generating concern” among members of the community.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution and federal law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, and the government generally enforced the prohibition. The law mandates access for disabled persons to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, and government services. The government generally enforced these provisions.
One of the country’s largest disability organizations, Procap, stated that persons with mental disabilities faced increasing difficulties finding employment. Procap also observed a growing number of disabled persons living in poverty, due to disability insurance benefits falling short of allowing disabled persons to live above the poverty income level. The NGO Humanrights.ch alleged that patients were incarcerated in regular detention centers for up to 23 hours a day and that they were denied their right to free legal counsel. In its 2016 report, the CPT stated that some mentally disabled persons were hospitalized in inappropriate conditions.
The Federal Equal Opportunity Office for Persons with Disabilities promoted awareness of the law and respect for the rights of individuals with disabilities through counseling and financial support for projects to facilitate their integration in society and the labor market. In May the government published a report on the situation of disabled persons, which concluded that disabled individuals still lacked equal access to the labor market, health care services, and housing, as well as to recreational and cultural activities. In response to the findings, the government ordered two new staff members to be added to the Federal Equal Opportunity Office for Persons with Disabilities in order to assist with the implementation of two new programs, one to increase disabled persons’ employment opportunities and the other to enable a more independent life style by better addressing disabled persons’ individual needs.
Extremists, including skinheads, who expressed hostility toward foreigners, ethnic and religious minorities, and immigrants, continued to be active.
In May the Federal Court confirmed the cantonal court of Vaud’s sentencing of a man for breaching the antiracism law after he asked on Twitter in 2015 who would join him in “torching Muslims” in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack in France. In April the Consulting Network for Racism Victims, a partnership between the NGO Humanrights.ch and the Federal Commission against Racism, released its report for 2017, again documenting an increase in racism against dark-skinned individuals and persons of Arab background. Anti-Muslim incidents were the third most-recorded cases of racism, after general xenophobia and racism against persons with dark skins. The report noted that most incidents of racial discrimination were verbal and occurred primarily in the workplace and at school. Unlike the previous year’s report, no physical attacks were reported.
In 2017 the Romani association Romano Dialogue and the Roma Foundation reported discrimination against Roma in the housing and labor markets and that many Roma routinely concealed their identity to prevent professional and private backlash. Romani representatives told local media that perceptions of uncleanliness, criminality, street begging, and lack of education continued to dominate the public’s view of Roma. According to the Society for Threatened Peoples, itinerant Roma, Sinti, and Yenish regularly faced arbitrary stops by police. In June the government rejected an official request submitted by Romani organizations to recognize Roma as a national minority. According to the government, Roma did not sufficiently display determination to “safeguard a common Swiss identity” nor did enough members have Swiss citizenship or longstanding ties to the country. The Society for Threatened Peoples called the decision discriminatory in light of the government’s recognition of the Sinti as a national minority in 2016.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law does not specifically ban discrimination in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. There were occasional reports of societal violence or discrimination based on opposition to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) status.
The umbrella organization for gay men, Pink Cross, reported that bullying in the work place remained a problem for LGBTI persons and noted that there were instances of discrimination against LGBTI individuals in the housing market. The organization also noted that authorities did not specifically prosecute hate crimes. In September Pink Cross initiated criminal proceedings against right-wing extremist leader Florian Signer of the Party of Nationally Oriented Swiss for publishing an article on the party’s website that described gay men as doing “pioneering work for pedophiles” and that the adoption of children by LGBTI persons is an “emotional time bomb.”
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There were occasional reports of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. To combat harassment and unfair behavior, the Swiss AIDS Federation conducted multiple campaigns to sensitize the public to the problem.