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Swiss shelters draw attention to plight of battered women

Only one out of ten abused women in Switzerland seeks protection from domestic abuse

(Keystone)

Switzerland's women's shelters are demanding better legal protection for victims of domestic violence. They have called on the government to provide more funding to help mistreated women, and to do more to bring their abusers to justice.

A spokeswoman for the Organisation for Mistreated Women (DAO), Claire Magnin, says it is "time to sound the alarm".

She says mounting costs and an increase in the number of women seeking shelter has created serious financial problems for the homes.

The DAO says Switzerland needs to double the number of available beds in its temporary shelters to accommodate battered women and children. In total, 200 beds are currently available across the country.

Last year, 763 women and 762 children sought protection in Switzerland's shelters. The total budget for the 15 shelters in 1999 was SFr 8.5 million ($5 million).

Approximately 60 per cent of the shelters' operating costs were covered by cantonal and communal subsidies. Room and board fees, which are normally paid for by social services and the federal government, made up another 26 per cent while private donations covered the remaining 14 per cent.

The DAO has asked the government to recognise the importance of its work and to contribute more to the shelters from its federal coffers.

In addition to calling attention to the homes' financial plight, the group also hopes to raise awareness of spousal and domestic abuse in general.

The DAO says that foreign women, in particular, are at high risk of spousal abuse.

Claudia Hauser, a member of the DAO commission, says that a foreign woman's right to stay in Switzerland is generally linked to her husband's permit. She says this creates a situation where foreign women "often find themselves faced with the choice of enduring violence or running the risk of being kicked out of Switzerland".

The DAO says that the revision of federal law concerning foreigners, which is currently under review, does not take these women into account. The DAO says the best solution would be to offer immigrant women the right to stay in Switzerland, regardless of their marital status.

The first women's shelter in Switzerland opened in Geneva in 1977 and the most recent home opened last year in Thun.

swissinfo with agencies

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