March 2023 | Parliament holds first session for people with disabilities
The Parliament held its first ever special session for people living with disabilities. Only 44 of the 200 seats in the House of Representatives were filled to symbolize the 22 per cent (1.8 million people) of the Swiss population with disabilities. The session convened people with disabilities from across Switzerland as representatives, chosen in a public online vote organized by Pro Firmis, a disability rights NGO. At the close of the session, a resolution was adopted geared towards strengthening political representation, including through voting without hindrance and access to information about the election, and the creation of an extra-parliamentary Disability Commission to improve consultation with people with disabilities as experts. The Federal Council ordered the Interior Ministry to lead the review of the Disability Equality Act, enacted in 2002, to improve the participation of people with disabilities in society, including through protections against workplace discrimination and in equal access to services.
December 2022 | “Only yes means yes” law approved by lower parliamentary house
Lawmakers in the National Council agreed to expand the definition of rape to comprise sexual acts without explicit consent, as opposed to being limited to cases where the victim has resisted. The vote narrowly passed with 99 votes in favour, 88 against, and three abstentions. The bill will be sent to the upper parliamentary chamber, the Council of States, and from there is likely to be put to a referendum. The Council of Europe had urged Switzerland to update its consent laws in November to bring the law in line with the Istanbul Convention.
October 2022 | UN report shows racial discrimination ubiquitous
A report from the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was delivered to the Human Rights Council with the conclusions of its visit to Switzerland in January 2022. The report finds that racial discrimination is prevalent and misconduct is often committed with impunity, and concludes that a systemic problem exists. The report recognizes recent positive steps, acknowledging the role of civil society and in particular initiatives led by people of African descent, while highlighting persistent structural problems (including in employment, education, health, and housing). It also points out gaps in the legal framework and institutions, including a disconnect between the national and cantonal levels undermining the implementation of international treaty commitments.