Women rights took some time to be established in Switzerland…but at last it did happen but there is still a long way to go.

See the development below:

1. Women gained the right to vote in national elections in 1971 in Switzerland. This happened after many other Western countries gave women this right and 78 years after New Zealand which was the first country to do so in 1893. According to Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, a referendum had to determine whether this alteration in the constitution could take place and only men voted in this referendum. In 1971, this became a reality after the failure of an earlier referendum in 1959 in which the idea had been turned down. 

Marthe Gosteli played an important part in gaining the right to vote for women in Switzerland. Prior to the referendum of 1971 she was the head of the Swiss Women’s Associations for the Political Rights of Women and after that she made archives of documents about the struggle of women to gain suffrage in Switzerland.

2. After the referendum of 1971 women were able to vote and take part in political life. As a result, ten women succeeded in gaining positions in the Swiss lower house of parliament, the National Council, in that year.
3. The first cantons to grant women suffrage at cantonal level were those of Vaud and Neuchâtel in 1959, after which time Geneva followed suit in 1960. Nevertheless, the majority did not follow this example before the 1971 federal referendum. Interestingly, the first female MP, Elisabeth Blunschy, did not have the right to vote at cantonal level in Schwzy, where she resided, in 1971.
4. However, in 1977, Blunschy was the first female president of the National Council. 
5. The Swiss Constitution was changed to account for gender equality and equal pay for equal work in 1981. By 2018 Switzerland held the rank of 20th most gender equal country in the world and tenth in Europe according to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report.

However, according to official Swiss statistics for 2016, the income of women in the private sector in Switzerland was 19.6 percent less than men, and they earned 657 francs less than men per month even after taking into account ‘explainable’ factors such as education, experience and the type of industry.

6. in 1984, the Swiss Federal Council, the government’s seven-person executive welcomed its first female member, Elisabeth Kopp. 
7. Equal rights with men within family life was given to women as a result of a referendum in September 1985. Before this date, women were under the legal authority of their husbands: they had to ask for their husband’s legal permission if they wanted to work, select a place to live or make decisions about their money; they were not even able to open a bank account without their husbands’ permission. 
8. The last canton to give women the right to vote at cantonal level in 1990 was Appenzell Innerrhoden, which is known for being conservative. They only conceded because they were obligated by the federal supreme court. 
9. The first female president of Switzerland was Ruth Dreifuss in 1999. Presidents change annually in Switzerland. Since that time, this country has had four other female presidents.
10. In 2002, it became legal for women to ask for abortion up to 12 weeks after they became pregnant. Furthermore, it became possible to buy the morning after pill without prescription in that year.
11. Paid maternity leave for pregnant women was legally granted in 2005, after being rejected four times in previous referendums. Although a number of companies provided women with paid maternity leave before 2005, it was not compulsory. At present, women are given 14 weeks paid maternity leave after the birth of their child, which is much less than some other countries in Europe, during which time they receive up to 80 percent of their salary and no more than 196 francs a day. Men are not entitled to paid leave after the birth of their children, but the parliament is now looking at a proposal for a two-week paternity leave.
12. There were more female members in the government’s executive for the first time in 2010 when Simonetta Sommaruga was elected to the Swiss Federal Council.

Since January 2019, Switzerland’s seven-member executive has had three women as its members: Sommaruga (environment minister), Karin Keller-Sutter (justice minister) and Viola Amherd, who is Switzerland’s first-ever female defence minister. Keller-Sutter and Amherd were also both the first women ever to be elected into the Swiss government in a federal council election in December 2018.

Nevertheless, in the Swiss parliament overall, the majority are still men and only 33 percent of MPs and 15.2 percent of senators are female. 

The political institutions commission of the National Council did not accept a move that would obligate a specific number of women in the seven-member federal government in January 2018. Although the federal constitution has made certain that there must be a fair representation of regions and languages in the government, it has not mentioned women. The final decision of the commission was that such a quota did not have to be in the constitution although the commission was not against a better representation of women in the government.

13. The salary equality law was passed in December 2018, after the Swiss parliament had long discussions about this issue. According to this law, companies with over 100 employees will be obligated to conduct compulsory research about pay equality and answer to employees and shareholders. Nonetheless, the proportion of workers who work in such companies is not more than around 1 percent. Although the Swiss government had formerly asked companies with 50 employees or more to conduct this compulsory analysis on pay equality, centrist and right-wing parties in the parliament had protested because this would be too difficult for smaller companies.


Source: The Local

Michael AW

Michael AW

Michael is the founder of Fantastic Switzerland Associaton. A non-profit organization to promote the location of Switzerland

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