How the women’s strike is affecting politics in Switzerland

Purple-clad women parliamentarians stepping out to join the demonstrations last week. © Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

What concrete political changes, if any, are set to emerge from last week’s historic women’s strike in Switzerland? Parliament has seen a series of moves from both left and right-wing politicians designed to address women’s inequality, with more to follow. 

This content was published on June 19, 2019 minutes

The hundreds of thousands of women who demonstrated across the country last Friday had a clear message: the strike was just the beginning of long-term efforts to change laws, habits, and mindsets. In parliament, such efforts have stepped up a notch in response; here are some of the major moves. 

Just 33% of politicians in the House of Representatives are women... © Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle

Sexual violence: Six parliamentary requestsExternal link were raised last week by female politicians from across the political spectrum (except for the right-wing People’s Party), in response to an Amnesty International report revealing that one in five women in Switzerland has experienced sexual assault. Proponents of the measures want the government to take steps to prevent such violence, as well as help its victims. They also want lack of consent to be included under the legal definition of rape. 

Political representation: The Green Party submitted a parliamentary initiativeExternal link stipulating that all political parties should put forward voting lists with equal representation. (The Swiss elect their members of parliament by submitting a list of chosen candidates, from among many possible lists provided by political parties). The ecological group had already tried in 2017 to require that each list for the House of Representatives have at least one-third men and one-third women candidates. But the initiative was rejected by parliament, which preferred to leave parties the freedom to promote female participation as they wished.  

Work: Radical-Liberal (centre-right) politician Isabelle Moret is concerned about how women who stopped working for family reasons can re-integrate into the workplace. She has requestedExternal link that the government draw up a report on the needs and resources in this area. 

Finance: Green Party politician Aline Trede wants legislation to ensure that women are no longer financially at a disadvantage. Her motionExternal link proposes that the government take action, for example, to ease the costs of childbearing and rearing as well as the pension difficulties faced by some women. 

Women’s museum: Evangelical Party politician Marianne Streiff-Feller wants a national museum of women in Switzerland – the country with the most museums per capita in the world. She has put forward a motionExternal link proposing that the government come up with a strategy to showcase the history of women in Switzerland. 

...and just 15% of the Senate is made up of women. Keystone / Anthony Anex

Seven parliamentary interventions in total were recorded on the day of the strike itself. Others are expected to follow in the coming weeks. Initiatives are also cropping up on the local and cantonal levels, such as the decision this week by the French-speaking canton of Vaud to ban sexist advertising from the public space. 

The current president of the House of Representatives, Marina Carobbio Guscetti, has also worked with various woman politicians this year on projects to boost female representation within political institutions. A new pageExternal link has recently been launched on the parliament’s website to this effect. 

Both houses of parliament, which are largely populated by men (33% of the House of Representatives is female, and 15% of the Senate), will now hold debates about various issues related to women in Switzerland. Is it a first step towards a changing of mindsets? In any case, more women than in 2015 are set to stand for federal elections this October.External link 

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