First paedophile therapy centre opens in Switzerland

The paedophile therapy centre is aimed at preventing crimes - both for the sake of children and potential offenders. Keystone / Sascha Steinbach

Canton Zurich has launched Switzerland’s first centre aimed at preventing paedophiles from carrying out sexual assaults on children.

This content was published on June 4, 2021 minutes

The Clinic of Forensic Psychology at the University of Zurich has been commissioned to set up the centre, it was announced on Friday. The project has an initial trial period of three years and will receive CHF250,000 ($277,000) in funding.

“We want to better protect children and help prevent people with paedo-sexual inclinations from becoming perpetrators,” said canton Zurich health director Natalie Rickli.

There are an estimated 30,000 people in Switzerland with paedophile tendencies, around half of them in canton Zurich, according to Swiss public broadcaster SRF.

The project is modelled on similar therapy centres in Berlin, which has been running for 15 years. This project claims that only 2% of people who attend go on to commit sexual crimes on children.

Last autumn, the Swiss government asked cantons to come up with projects aimed at preventing paedophile crimes. The Zurich centre will work together with private initiatives to form a network of therapists tackling the issue.

Last year, the Swiss child protection agency called for a better coordinated national strategy to fight the scourge of paedophilia rather than leave the task to cantons.

“At the moment, neighbouring countries are ramping up their cooperation, but here more and more is being delegated to the cantons,” agency spokeswoman Regula Bernhard Hug told Swiss public broadcaster SRF. “Since this is an international phenomenon, it needs a national strategy.”

In 2014, Swiss voters backed a popular initiative that called for a ban on people convicted of paedophile offences from ever working with children.

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