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Sexual violence Petition calls for all non-consensual sexual acts to be punished

A woman takes part in a rally in Geneva to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

A woman takes part in a rally in Geneva on November 25 to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

(Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi)

Thirty non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International, have filed a petition with Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter, urging her to reform Swiss law to ensure that all non-consensual sexual acts are punishable. 

Campaigners officially handed over a petition external linkin Bern on Thursday entitled “Justice for people who have been subject to sexual violence”. It had been signed by 35,000 people. Some activists carried banners with slogans such as “Sex without consent is rape” and “Only yes means yes.” 

The petition urges the authorities to take the necessary steps to ensure that victims of sexual violence obtain appropriate justice. In particular, it wants the justice minister and parliament to put forward proposals to revise the Penal Code to ensure that non-consensual sexual acts are properly punished and that Swiss law conforms to international human rights standards. 

The text also calls for mandatory and ongoing training for judges, police and lawyers in the care of victims of sexual violence.  

Under Swiss law, rape is recognised only if there is coercion by the perpetrator and resistance from the victim. However, the Istanbul Convention, which entered into force in Switzerland last year, clearly demands that lack of consent serve as the basis for any legal definition of rape and other forms of sexual violence.  

Reform ‘not appropriate’ 

A study carried out by the gfs.bern institute for Amnestyexternal link, which was published in May, revealed that 22% of women over 16 had been subject to non-consensual sexual acts and 12% had had sex against their will. Around half of those affected had not talked about their sexual violence experience, the survey of 4,500 Swiss women found, and only 8% had filed a complaint with the police.    

Nearly 60% of the women surveyed said they had been sexually harassed: unwanted contact, hugging or kissing. 

In August the Federal Council said in reply to a parliamentary question that reform of the law was not appropriate. Thirty-two Swiss lawyers had publicly criticised the need to change legislation. 

Keystone-SDA/sb

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