Thousands of people have demonstrated in Swiss towns against paedophilia in a day of silent marches.This content was published on September 27, 2003 - 18:05
The protests follow a day after German police smashed a child pornography network spanning several countries, including Switzerland.
Protesters took to the streets in 13 Swiss towns, including Geneva, Lucerne, Basel, Lausanne and Bellinzona.
Some 2,000 turned up in Geneva alone, according to the organisers of the nationwide demonstrations, the non-governmental Marche Blanche (White March) association.
Participants called on the Swiss government to make sexual crimes against children a priority and condemned the passivity of the authorities.
The justice minister, Ruth Metzler, addressed the crowd in St Gallen. She thanked the protesters for participating.
"This demonstration will help to break the taboo surrounding crimes associated with paedophilia," Metzler said.
However, the number of towns taking part in this year’s marches was down by half – 26 cities participated in 2001.
The founder of Marche Blanche, Christine Bussat, told swissinfo, that this did not signal a foundering interest in its campaign.
“We focussed this year’s protests in towns where there was a committee that was active the whole year round. It was a question of quality [over quantity],” Bussat said.
Bussat added that there were simply too many marches organised last year.
Marche Blanche says the government has to pour more resources into tackling paedophilia.
“Nearly SFr60,000 [$45,000 from the government] to tackle child pornography on the internet is insufficient,” remarked Bussat.
“It’s an affront to the children!” she added.
However, the Swiss federal police disagree. Spokesman Guido Balmer says that the police have enough means at their disposal to battle internet paedophilia.
Balmer recognises that Marche Blanche can help the police fight against child pornography, if only indirectly.
“[The organisation] increases public awareness of the problem and might even have a preventative effect,” Balmer said.
The German police said on Friday that it had busted a ring of child pornographers from more than 160 countries, including Switzerland.
The Swiss authorities responded that evidence gathered by the German sting had led to investigations into eight suspects.
Balmer said the number of inquiries was likely to increase.
swissinfo with agencies
The first Swiss “white march” took place in 2001 after parents shocked by the reports of paedophilia banded together.
The parents were inspired by their Belgian counterparts.
This year’s march was marked in 13 Swiss towns.
Participating towns included Lucerne, Geneva, Basel, Lausanne, St Gallen and Bellinzona.
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