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Law fails immigrant women, says report

Current Swiss law does not sufficiently protect immigrant women from domestic violence, says a report presented to the media on Monday.

The Swiss observatory for the rights of asylum seekers and foreigners says many women are trapped because their right to stay is linked to their marital status. If they try to get free of a violent partner, they are likely to be sent home.

The law on family reunification stipulates that a woman who comes to Switzerland to join her husband must stay married for at least three years. To leave an abusive partner, she has to prove that he is violent.

This requirement is often an “insuperable” obstacle, the observatory says, since the authorities ignore corroborating evidence from battered women’s hostels or neighbours. Victims have to produce evidence from the police or a doctor.

The situation is all the more complex for many women because some do not know their rights and have difficulty in finding help because they are isolated by their inability to speak a Swiss language. Others mistrust the police because of their experiences in their home countries, according to Claudia Haser of the Solidarity Federation of Women of Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

However, the Federal Migration Office has directed cantonal migration offices to start accepting evidence from hostels and other specialist organisations as of this summer – a “step in the right direction”, according to parliamentarian Maria Roth-Bernasconi. The observatory says that a lot of information work and political pressure is nevertheless still needed at cantonal level to ensure that the change is applied.

According to the Federal Statistics Office, 22 women, both foreigners and Swiss, die every year as a result of domestic violence. Nearly 20 per cent of women living in Switzerland are said to suffer physical or sexual violence during their lifetime.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR