A new report by the Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) calls on Switzerland to increase funding and human resources for counselling centres for victims of racism, and to deal more effectively with discrimination, as well as promoting integration.
ECRI notes significant progress since its last report in 2014, but some issues continue to give rise to concern. There is still no general anti-discrimination legislation and no state support for LGBTI victims. The report also notes that there has been a sharp rise in intolerant discourse against Muslims, particularly in the media. There is a shortage of places to stop for travelling Yenish and Sinti/Manouche and non-Swiss travelling Roma are increasingly excluded. Lastly, institutional and structural racism continues to be a problem in the police, as evidenced in racial profiling and identity checks targeted notably at itinerant persons and black people.
The report makes 15 recommendations to the Swiss authorities. Within the next two years, ECRI will review the implementation of two of the recommendations, identified as priorities. The report was prepared following ECRI’s visit to Switzerland in early 2019 and takes account of developments up to 19 June 2019.
On LGBTI equality it states:
- In its fifth report, ECRI recommended that the authorities adopt comprehensive
legislation against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender
identity and to include these grounds in Article 261bis of the Criminal Code. As
concerns civil law, the situation remains unchanged (see Topics specific to
Switzerland and the recommendation in § 109). Regarding criminal law on the
other hand, ECRI is pleased to note that an amendment extending Article 261bis
of the Criminal Code to include the ground of sexual orientation was adopted by
the Swiss Parliament in December 2018. 11 While the amendment (if finally
enacted 12 ) represents a significant step forward, ECRI regrets that transgender
persons are still not afforded this protection under criminal law.
- ECRI reiterates its recommendation to include the ground of gender identity in
Article 261bis of the Criminal Code.
- ECRI notes a number of legislative developments and proposals promoting LGBTI
equality. In January 2018, amendments to the Swiss adoption law entered into
force allowing stepchild adoption for cohabiting same-sex couples and for
registered partners. Previously this option had only been available to married
couples. The Federal Council has proposed modification of the Civil Code to
facilitate change of gender and first name for transgender and intersex persons. 13
All that would be required is a simple self-declaration before the civil registry officer,
with no medical examination needed or modification of marital status or registered
partnership. Another proposal concerns either the introduction of a third gender or
the removal of gender from civil status documents. 14 Equal marriage is also under
discussion in the National Council, following an initiative submitted in 2013. ECRI
strongly encourages the authorities to take into account the views of relevant
LGBTI organisations in order to meet the needs of the people directly concerned.
- As regards intersex persons, 15 ECRI is aware that many of these persons suffer as
a result of medical interventions and are exposed to stigmatisation, discrimination,
violence, isolation and invisibility. An intersex NGO informed ECRI that its main
objective is to put an end to irreversible and medically unnecessary surgical and
hormonal treatments performed on children, which are not justified by psychosocial
concerns nor the family and cultural context. The NGO also advocated for parents
to be fully informed about any “variation of sexual development” in their child and not pressured into making decisions having lifelong consequences. It called for the provision of support for parents and for schools to include discussion of intersexuality to promote wider awareness.
- ECRI supports the position of a growing number of international bodies that
children’s right to physical integrity and bodily autonomy should be effectively
protected and that medically unnecessary sex-“normalising” surgery and other
treatments should be prohibited until the child is able to participate in the decision,
based on the right to self-determination and on the principle of free and informed
consent. 16 In this context, ECRI welcomes two motions approved by the parliament
of the canton of Geneva in April 2019 prohibiting non-urgent sex-“normalising”
operations on intersex persons without their consent. Indeed, this kind of surgery
has not been performed by the University Hospital of Geneva since 2012 and the
motions formalised this practice and imposed it on other clinics in the canton. ECRI
hopes that this will inspire other cantons and eventually lead to legislation at federal
- ECRI recommends that intersex children’s right to physical integrity and bodily
autonomy is effectively protected and that medically unnecessary sex-
“normalising” surgery and other treatments are prohibited until such time as the
child is able to participate in the decision, based on the right to self-determination
and on the principle of free and informed consent.
- ECRI notes that although there is no national action plan to promote LGBTI
equality, promising actions have been taken at the local level. In September 2018,
the parliament of the City of Zurich voted in favour of developing and implementing,
together with trans NGOs, a comprehensive action plan to ensure trans people’s
human rights and equality. 17 The City of Bern created the new post of LGBTI project leader within its equality office 18 and Geneva established a civil servant position specially dedicated to these issues in 2012. 19 ECRI encourages further initiatives of this kind across the country, which contribute to better understanding the problems faced by LGBTI persons and to finding solutions.”