SWISS CONFEDERATION: One in five women is a victim of sexual violence

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24 May 2019
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Women's Rights

Sexual violence is much more widespread in Switzerland than commonly thought, with women and girls being failed by dangerous and outdated laws, a new survey commissioned by Amnesty International has revealed.

According to the research involving interviews with 4,495 women and girls aged 16 and over, one in five women surveyed has been subjected to sexual violence, and more than 10 percent of women surveyed had been raped. Only 8 percent of women surveyed reported the assault to the police.

“This survey not only reveals staggeringly high levels of rape and sexual violence against women but also shockingly low levels of reporting,” said Manon Schick, Managing Director of Amnesty Switzerland.

“These findings should be a wake-up call for the authorities in Switzerland and spur the urgent reform of Switzerland’s antiquated rape laws.”


Under the Istanbul Convention, ratified by Switzerland in 2017, rape and all other non-consensual acts of a sexual nature must be classified as criminal offences. However, Swiss law still does not define rape on the basis of lack of consent. Instead, it uses a definition based on whether physical violence, threat or coercion is involved.

The assumption in law or in practice that a victim gives their consent because they have not physically resisted is deeply problematic since “involuntary paralysis” or “freezing” has been recognized by experts as a very common physiological and psychological response to sexual assault.

This focus on resistance and violence rather than on consent has an impact not only on the reporting of rape but also on wider awareness of sexual violence, both of which are key aspects in preventing rape and tackling impunity.

Amnesty has analysed rape legislation in 31 countries in Europe and found that only 8 out of 31 countries have consent-based legislation in place. These are Sweden, the UK, Ireland, Luxembourg, Germany, Cyprus, Iceland and Belgium.

In the other European countries, for the crime to be considered rape, the law requires for example the use of force or threats, but this is not what happens in a great majority of rape cases.

21 May 2019

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