‘Yes means yes’ principle of sexual consent popular among Swiss

Keystone / Christophe Gateau

A survey by Amnesty International Switzerland has found wider backing for the benefits of the affirmative consent principle for sexual relations, rather than placing the onus on people to say “no”.

This content was published on April 12, 2022

Some 45% of all respondents said the “yes means yes” definition of consensual sex was the best way to protect against sexual violence, the NGO said on Tuesday. In contrast, 27% said that the “no means no” definition was the best way to proceed.

The survey was carried out as debates continue in parliament about revising the Swiss criminal code in accordance with the Istanbul Convention on violence against women, which notably foresees legal penalties for sex without consent.

The “yes means yes” definition would make it necessary for all people involved to give clear verbal or non-verbal agreement beforehand – if not, the act could be open to prosecution, wrote research group gfs.bern, which carried out the survey.

The “no means no” approach – favoured by a committee in the Swiss Senate, which gave its view in February – would mean a sexual act could be prosecuted if one participant clearly expressed opposition, but were ignored by the other person(s).

Under current Swiss law, rape is only recognised if there is coercion by the perpetrator and resistance from the victims. Some 13% of survey respondents said sticking to this was the best way to protect against sexual violence.


The survey also found that a third of respondents said it was often difficult to gauge what exactly their partner wanted in a sexual situation.

Around a third of men, and a fifth of women, said they tended to interpret the situation as one of consent if the other person did not say “no”.

Other areas of the survey found marked differences between male and female attitudes: 50% of men said they saw intercourse as consensual “when the other person had already agreed to other sexual acts”; 27% of women agreed with this.

Similarly, 26% of men assumed consent if the other person “had previously [i.e. at another time] given consent”; 13% of women said the same.

A large majority (84%) of respondents said it was “absolutely necessary” that perpetrators of sexual violence were brought to justice. Some 95% were in favour of the issues of sexual relations and consent being discussed in schools.

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In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

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