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Women demand better protection against sexual violence

One year after the historic women’s strike on June 14, 2019, dozens of organisations and names from politics, medicine, culture and legal circles have launched a national appeal for a “modern sexual criminal law”.

They are calling for a revision of the Swiss Penal Code so that all non-consensual sexual acts “can be punished appropriately”. In concrete terms, “offences under Article 189 (sexual coercion) and 190 (rape) must be amended accordingly”, the signatories said in a statement on Friday.

“Sexual self-determination is a fundamental human right. Sex requires the consent of all persons involved,” they said. “The law must finally protect sexual self-determination better!”

Today, the law only recognises a sexual act against a person’s will as a crime if the victim has been coerced into it, for example by violence or threat. A “no” in itself is not enough, said Amnesty International Switzerland and other signatory organisations on Friday.

“The current law is a relic from a time that we want to leave behind. Sexual acts against the will of the victim must be recognised as a serious crime – even if there was no coercion,” said Lisa Mazzone, a member of the Senate for the Green Party.

Swiss situation

A representative survey conducted by gfs.berne on behalf of Amnesty International in 2019 revealed that 22% of women in Switzerland had experienced unwanted sexual acts during their lives and 12% had suffered sexual intercourse against their will. Only 8% of those affected went to the police.

The justice ministry is currently examining how Swiss criminal law should deal with sexual acts against a person’s will when neither violence nor threats have been used.

Nine countries in Europe already criminalise rape based on lack of consent: Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Sweden and Britain. Reforms are under discussion in Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland.