The Marche Blanche (White March) association has handed in a people's initiative calling for an end to the current 15-year time limit on reporting sexual abuse.This content was published on March 1, 2006 - 12:14
The document, which gathered almost 120,000 signatures, was handed into the Federal Chancellery in the Swiss capital Bern on Wednesday.
This means that the issue is now likely to come to a nationwide vote.
"Children have too few rights in our society," said Chantal Besson from Marche Blanche, which fights against child abuse.
"More than 40,000 children are abused every year in Switzerland, but only around 330 people are sentenced," she told the Bern-based Bund newspaper.
The non-governmental association is calling for an end to the time limit on sexual abuse, so that those people who were victims as children can take legal action as adults.
At present, if someone who was abused as a ten-year-old doesn't take any action by the time they are 25, the perpetrator is off the hook.
Besson says this is unacceptable and must change. "We must give victims more time to have the courage to report their tormentors."
Besson is aware how delicate the subject is – and admits sexual abuse is often hard to prove – but she doesn't believe the initiative will result in abuses of the law.
For her, the protection of children takes priority. "Many more children will be abused than innocent people sentenced."
She added that society must start taking victims of sexual abuse more seriously.
"Most child victims are abused within their families – and paedophilia and child pornography remain taboo," she told the newspaper.
Swiss law does not forbid the viewing of child pornography on the internet but punishes the downloading of images with up to one year in prison and/or a fine.
It is illegal to be in possession of child pornography and the sale of pornographic images of children can result in a prison sentence of up to three years.
If a citizen or a group can collect and hand in to the Federal Chancellery 100,000 signatures in favour of the amendment within 18 months, this "people's initiative" must be put to a nationwide vote.
Parliament and the government then discuss the initiative and recommend to the people whether it should be adopted or rejected.
A people's initiative needs a majority of the popular vote as well as the backing of a majority of the country's 26 cantons to become law.
119,198 certified signatures have been collected supporting the initiative, which demands "pornographic acts on children no longer be subject to a statute of limitations".
The current statute of limitations on sexual abuse is 15 years.
The first Swiss White March took place in 2001 after parents, shocked by reports of paedophilia and inspired by their Belgian counterparts, banded together.
Between 10-20% people have been victims of sexual abuse during their childhood, according to Unicef. Most cases go unpunished.
Council of Europe data suggest rates of child abuse vary significantly across Europe, affecting 7% of girls in Ireland compared with 36% in Austria, and 3% of boys in Switzerland and 27% in Britain.
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