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Violence against women is close to home

The campaign aims to stop violence against women

(swissinfo.ch)

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Swiss groups have warned that the problem still affects many women in the country.

A number of events are being held across the country to help raise awareness of the issue, including distributing more information on advice centres and women's refuges.

"The annual campaign is organised on a local level," Monique Aeschbacher of the Federal Equality Office told swissinfo.

She singled out a poster campaign by women's shelters and an initiative focusing on murder cases in families, but also a series of expert meetings.

In Zurich for instance, badges will be handed out containing the message "stop violence against women".

And the Swiss branch of Terre des Femmes is trying to raise awareness of forced marriages, which the group says affected mainly young migrant women between the ages of 16 and 19 years old.

In Switzerland it has been estimated that one in five women between the ages of 20 and 60 has suffered physical or sexual abuse at the hands of a partner.

The cost of gender violence in the country has been estimated at SFr400 million ($330.8 million) per year which includes the costs of policing and social support.

Action

The federal authorities point out that Switzerland is active in the fight against violence both within the country and abroad.

On a national level the Federal Equality Office has been supporting women's shelters and advice centres on domestic violence. Round tables have been set up to fight human trafficking.

Following a legal amendment in 2004 police are now allowed to prosecute cases of domestic abuse even without an official complaint from the victim.

And in June this year parliament approved an amendment in which violent spouses can be ordered to leave their homes as a temporary measure and stalking becomes a punishable offence.

But concerns have been raised by some non-governmental organisations that there is a severe shortage of beds in refuges for battered women and that not enough is being done to combat domestic violence.

A recent study also found that family murders account for more than half of all homicides in Switzerland. The most high profile case involved the family of the former ski star, Corinne Rey-Bellet, who was murdered by her estranged husband earlier this year.

However experts say it is not possible to say what is behind the upsurge in family killings.

Worldwide

The UN Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women has been held on November 25 each year since 1981.

The organisation says that at least one in three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually being known to her.

In his message for the day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that such aggression caused "untold misery" and stopped women fulfilling their potential.

"When it comes to violence against women, there are no civilised societies," he said.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Last year 40 people died in family killings in Switzerland, according to Amnesty International.
One in five women in Switzerland falls victim at least once in her life to domestic violence – including threats, blackmail, beatings and sexual violence.
Family killings account for 58% of all murders in Switzerland, compared with 20% in the US, according to the Swiss National Science Foundation.

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In brief

Rape among married couples only became a punishable offence in 1993 under Swiss law.

Until 2004 violence in partnerships could only be prosecuted if charges were filed by the victims.

Since April 2004 prosecutors have brought proceedings against perpetrators even without the victim's consent.

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