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Study  One in five Swiss women has been a victim of sexual violence 

Women protest in Lausanne in 2017 about harassment and sexual violence against women

Women protest in Lausanne in 2017 about harassment and sexual violence against women

(© Keystone/laurent Gillieron)

Sexual violence is much more widespread in Switzerland than previously thought, affecting at least one in five women, according to Amnesty Switzerland.  

A study carried out by the gfs.bern institute for Amnestyexternal link, which was published on Tuesday, revealed that 22% of women over 16 had been subject to non-consensual sexual acts and 12% had had sex against their will.   

"The results of the investigation are shocking. They reveal that the cases recorded in police statistics are only the tip of the iceberg," said Manon Schick, director of Amnesty Switzerland. 

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.

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Legal system

In 2018, 1,291 sexual offences, which include sexual coercion and rape, were recorded by the police. Sexual assaults are underreported and go largely unpunished in Switzerland.  

Under Swiss law, rape is only recognized if there is coercion by the perpetrator and resistance from the victims. 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. 

Amnesty has sent a petition calling on Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter to reform Swiss law to ensure that all non-consensual sexual acts are punishable. It calls for mandatory and ongoing training for judges, police and lawyers in the care of victims of sexual violence.  

"Switzerland has an outdated sexual criminal law, which should be fundamentally reformed," said Nora Scheidegger, an expert on sexual offences.  

The organisation also demands the systematic data collection and studies on how sexual offences are dealt with by the Swiss justice system. 

Last autumn, parliamentarians in the lower House of Representatives accepted a motion by the Social Democrat Laurence Fehlmann Rielle to broaden the concept of rape in the Criminal Code to include coercion. The Senate has yet to take a decision on this issue. 

Keystone-SDA/sb

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