Should same-sex marriage be criminalized

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As one of the last European countries, Switzerland allows marriage for same-sex couples. However, there are other challenges on the way to real equality.

This content was published on December 2nd, 2020 - 6:30 pm

As a journalist based in Bern, I am particularly interested in social issues, but also in politics and social media. Before that, I worked for regional media, on the editorial offices of the Journal du Jura and Radio Jura Bernois.

More about the author | French-speaking editorial team

Switzerland is about to leave an inglorious club: the club of the last European countries that do not allow same-sex couples to marry. After the National Council, the Council of States also said yes to marriage for everyone this week.

The project includes the legalization of sperm donation for lesbian couples, facilitated naturalization of the partner and joint adoption. The adoption of the partner's child has been allowed since 2018, but the process is lengthy.

Read the moving story of Véronique and Julie here:

Human rights groups have long waited for this breakthrough. "The vote of the Council of States is a major milestone on the way to equality," said Matthias Erhardt, Vice President of the "Marriage for All" committee.

Helvetic slowness

It is well known that Switzerland is not a country for political quick-action exercises. But this process took seven years, which is long even by Swiss standards. Marriage for All was initiated in 2013 by a parliamentary initiative by the Green Liberal Party. Several versions of the bill were then debated in parliament.

In an international comparison, Switzerland was already lagging behind: The Netherlands was the first country in the world to allow same-sex marriage as early as 2001. When Switzerland introduced the registered partnership for homosexual couples in 2007, five European countries (the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Sweden and Iceland) granted same-sex partners not only marriage but also all parental rights, i.e. adoption, access to medically assisted procreation and Recognition of both parents at birth.

Homosexuals facing the death penalty

According to the latest ILGA report on homophobia, 70 states continue to criminalize consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex. Homosexuality is punishable by the death penalty in 11 countries. In 26 states, the maximum sentence ranges from 10 years to life imprisonment.

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International criticism

These inadequacies have brought criticism from various international organizations to Switzerland. In its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), among other things, the Human Rights Council drew attention to the discriminatory or unequal federal laws against homosexuals.

In recent years, Switzerland had dropped to 27th place in the ILGA-Europe (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) ranking. The list shows the status of homosexual equality in the countries. On February 9 of this year, Switzerland passed a law that protects the homosexual and bisexual community from discrimination and hate speech. A legislative revision that has enabled her to move up to 23rd place - with an equality rate of 36 percent, which is still well below the European average of 48 percent.

The latest decision in parliament is welcomed internationally as a welcome step forward. "This is good news. LGBTIQ people have taken a step towards equal family rights as everyone else in Switzerland," said Katrin Hugendubel, campaign manager at ILGA-Europe.

Amnesty International (AI) calls the vote "a historic decision for equality". Switzerland finally recognizes that there is no reason to deny same-sex couples and rainbow families basic rights, says Alexandra Karle, director of the Swiss section of the NGO.

Insufficient protection for trans people

There is still a lot to be done to achieve equality for LGBTIQ people *, but experts in Switzerland and abroad say. Nadia Boehlen, the spokeswoman for the Swiss section of AI, points out the fact that the law does not provide for any penalties for transphobia, i.e. discrimination and hate speech based on gender identity. Trans people are a particularly vulnerable group of the population.

However, it is difficult to quantify the level of discrimination or attacks that the LGBTIQ community in Switzerland is exposed to. Comprehensive national statistics on this topic are lacking.

ILGA-Europe is of the opinion that Switzerland should prohibit medical interventions on intersex minors if they are not necessary. "It must be ensured that the legal recognition of gender is based on self-determination," says Katrin Hugendubel. The international organization emphasizes that the federal government must also make efforts in the area of ​​asylum for homosexuals and recalls the recent conviction of the country by the European Court of Human Rights for the deportation of a gay Gambier.

Threatened referendum

We still have to wait for the first same-sex marriage in Switzerland. The National Council will deal with the issue again during the winter session in order to settle the differences. According to the draft of the Federal Council, the wife of the biological mother of the child should only be recognized as mother at birth if the newborn was conceived with the help of a Swiss sperm bank. A restriction criticized by associations for the rights of gay people who fear that some children do not enjoy full legal protection at birth.

In addition, the Federal Democratic Union (EDU) has already announced that it will hold the referendum against marriage for everyone. "We reject this dilution of the marriage institution," writes the small, ultra-conservative Christian party in a media release. If you manage to collect 50,000 signatures in 100 days, the people have the last word.

The template should have a good chance there: According to a study commissioned by Pink Cross, the country's umbrella organization for homosexual organizations, more than 80 percent of Swiss people are in favor of marriage for all.

* LGBTIQ is an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexual and queer people.

Family Rights for LGBTIQ People: The Current Situation

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