Swiss parliament approves stricter laws against paedophilia

Regine Aeppli, a Swiss MP, is a strong supporter of the campaign to tighten Swiss laws against sex offenders Keystone Archive

The Swiss parliament has voted in favour of amending existing laws against pornography in an effort to crack down on paedophilia.

This content was published on June 6, 2001 minutes

On the second day of parliament's summer session, the House of Representatives agreed to extend the statute of limitations for sexual offences.

Under current law, sex offenders can be prosecuted for up to a maximum of 15 years after the crime is alleged to have been committed.

The new legislation will increase the period of prosecution by a further 15 years up to a maximum of 30 years.

The newly drafted law also includes the stipulation that offenders remain liable for prosecution up until the victim's 25th birthday.

Under Swiss law, the maximum penalty for sex offenders is life imprisonment.

The aim of the amendment, argue parliamentarians, is to tighten the law and ensure greater protection of minors.

Regine Aeppli, a Swiss MP at the forefront of the campaign to tighten the country's laws against sex offenders, said parliament's decision proved that lawmakers have learnt from the experience of the justice authorities.

"I think the practice of the past 15 years has shown that young victims of sexual abuse very often don't realise what happened to them," Aeppli said in an interview with swissinfo.

"It's only when they get older and have left the surroundings where they lived that they start to realise what happened to them," she added.

The healing process for victims of sexual abuse, said Aeppli, can take several years, and the amendment will ensure that sex offenders do not escape the law.

The House of Representatives also agreed to tighten regulations concerning the availability of hard-core pornography.

The debate now heads back to the Senate, where some minor differences still have to be ironed out. If the law is accepted, the possession of hard pornographic material will be banned in Switzerland.

Under the proposed legislation, Internet users could face prosecution for downloading pornographic material.

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