The news that a prominent parliamentarian has been suspended from his party over stalking allegations has given rise to a discussion about sexual harassment in the Swiss parliament.
It comes two months after the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which saw the powerful Hollywood producer accused of sexual harassment and assault. He has denied the allegations. The case has prompted others to speak out over sexual harassment in the entertainment industry and beyond.
On Thursday, the centre-right Christian Democratic Party announced that it had suspendedexternal link its deputy president Yannick Buttet after Le Temps newspaper reportedexternal link that a complaint had been made against him to police for stalking. He is alleged to have rung the doorbell of an ex-lover in the southwestern Swiss city of Sion so many times during a night in November that she called the police. There have also been allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards other women, the article said, citing anonymous sources.
The police complaint has not been confirmed or denied by the local justice authorities, but Buttet confirmed the incident to the newspaper, saying that his marriage had been in crisis and affected his judgement and behaviour. He said that he now realised that sometimes in the evening and under the influence of alcohol, especially during this period of doubt, there had been “inappropriate gestures” that had upset or affected certain people.
The Christian Democrats said Buttet had informed them of the complaint on Wednesday, and had asked to be suspended. On whether a resignation was in sight, party president Gerhard Pfister said this would be discussed with Buttet, his cantonal party and the main party management.
Buttet’s cantonal party, the Valais Christian Democrats, said they were “deeply shocked” by the case.
There have already been calls for Buttet to resign from several parliamentarians, including from his own party. Ruth Humbel said she saw no alternative should he be convicted. “This would be incompatible with the traditional values that we stand for,” she was quoted by the Swiss news agency as saying.
In Friday’s media, several female parliamentarians called for the creation of a place within parliament where support could be sought confidentially. Céline Amaudruz, from the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, said that she had been harassed on several occasions in parliament. She gave no further details during an interview with French-language Swiss public television RTSexternal link, but did say she would not get into a lift with certain people.
The presidents of the House of Representatives and the Senateexternal link said they would be looking into whether measures against sexual harassment in parliament were necessary. They condemned any form of sexual harassment and said that parliamentarians were responsible for their own behaviour, according to the Swiss news agency.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/ilj