Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a statutory offense. Penalties for rape range from one to ten years in prison. The government effectively prosecuted individuals accused of such crimes.
NGOs such as Terre des Femmes, Vivre Sans Violence, and the umbrella organization for women’s shelters noted that violence against women remained a serious problem. Domestic violence resulted in the deaths of 23 individuals in 2014. In 2014 police registered 15,650 cases linked to domestic violence or domestic abuse. The law penalizes domestic violence as well as stalking. A court may order an abusive spouse to leave the family home temporarily.
Specialized government agencies, numerous NGOs, and nearly a dozen private or government-sponsored hotlines provided help, counseling, and legal assistance to victims of domestic violence. Official women’s shelters had average occupancy rates between 70 and 90 percent, and many shelters reached 100 percent of capacity, particularly in the northwest of the country. Demand for shelter space regularly exceeded capacity, with some victims turned away and housed in alternative accommodations, such as in hotels or specialized institutions. The Ministry of Interior’s Federal Office for Gender Equality had a special unit that focused on domestic violence. Most cantonal police forces included specially trained domestic violence units. A majority of cantons had administrative units to coordinate the activities of law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and victims assistance groups.
In November 2014 the conference of cantonal social directors published a report on local women’s shelters. The report concluded that most victims were foreign women from low-income families and that a three-fold increase in shelter spaces was needed nationally to adequately assist all survivors. The report further cited a lack of financial resources and a discrepancy in services offered across the cantons.
On November 25, the organization Christian Peace Service initiated a government- supported campaign showcasing the different types of violence in a relationship, including physical, social, and economic oppression, that included approximately 50 participating organizations and 70 public awareness events across the country.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. In 2012 the federal government worked with several NGOs to establish the National Action Group against Female Genital Mutilation to develop a framework of best practices to protect and care for women and girls affected by FGM/C. There were no cases brought to court in 2014. According to government estimates, there were approximately 14,700 women and girls, primarily from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Egypt, living in the country who were affected by, or at risk of, FGM/C.
In October the Federal Council tasked the Federal Office of Health and State Secretariat for Migration with establishing and cofinancing a counseling and preventive activities network for raising awareness of FGM/C among potential victims and health specialists.
In February 2014 the women’s human rights organization Terre des Femmes, in conjunction with the Federal Office of Public Health, published an assessment of FGM/C in the country. The report stated that FGM/C affected approximately 13,000 migrant women and girls in 2013. Several federal offices, in collaboration with NGOs and academic institutions, implemented educational and preventative measures aimed at vulnerable communities and relevant authorities, including a mediation service. The cantons of Geneva, Neuchatel, Vaud, and Fribourg carried out cantonal awareness strategies and campaigns, while other cantons engaged in similar awareness raising activities.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law prohibits forced marriage and provides for penalties of up to five years in prison, and denies permission to enter the country to visa applicants suspected of involvement in a forced marriage. Victims of forced marriage already residing in the country may remain and may change their marital status from “married” to “single” without a requirement to record a divorce. According to police statistics, three individuals were victims of forced marriage in 2014. This was in contrast to local media reports, which estimated there were 250 victims of forced marriage each year. A 2012 University of Neuchatel study estimated that 1,400 women were victims of forced marriages or unwanted relationships between 2010 and 2012. The Federal Coordination Unit against Forced Marriages implemented a nationwide program aimed at combating forced marriages for the period 2013-17. One NGO working with victims of forced marriage assisted on average five victims each week.
In April the high court of Zurich confirmed the six-year prison sentence of a 51-year-old Kurdish man who incited his former brother-in-law to kill his sister, the man’s ex-wife, and her new partner in an honor killing.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and facilitates legal remedies for those claiming discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Special legal protection against the dismissal of a claimant, however, was only temporary. Employers failing to take reasonable measures to prevent sexual harassment were liable for damages up to the equivalent of six months’ salary.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same rights as men under the constitution and law, including in family, labor, education, property, nationality, and inheritance law. During the year parliament passed revisions to the civil law ensuring a more equitable division of pension funds during divorce that will be retroactive for all divorces entered into as of 2000.
In an October 2014 report, the Federal Office for Gender Equality and the Federal Commission on Women outlined progress in women’s education levels and earning potential over the previous 15 years. Despite advances, the report concluded educated women were twice as likely to be poor than educated men, mostly because women remained the primary family caregivers and were not monetarily compensated for the time spent caring for their children or other relatives. The report highlighted that 19 percent of women (compared to 7 percent of men) were low wage earners in 2010, which, coupled with their primary caregiver responsibilities, exposed them to a high poverty risk and negative consequences in the labor market and social security system. Many cantons and some large cities had equality offices to handle gender problems.
Discrimination against women in the workplace is illegal, but a disproportionate share of women held jobs with lower levels of responsibility. Employers promoted women less frequently than they did men, and women were less likely to own or manage businesses (see section 7. d.).