LGBT rights in Switzerland

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LGBT rights in Switzerland
Location of  LGBT rights in Switzerland  (green)in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]
Location of  LGBT rights in Switzerland  (green)

in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal in Geneva, Ticino, Vaud, and Valais since 1798. Legal nationwide since 1942. Age of consent equalised in 1992 through referendum.
Gender identity/expression None
Military service Yes
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protection in labor code since 2001 (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
Registered partnerships in force since 2007
Adoption No
Gay Pride Parade in Zurich.

In Switzerland, the rights of individuals have traditionally had a high priority. At the same time, privacy is regarded as a fundamental asset. There is a strong contrast between cities and the countryside in public discourse about LGBT rights in Switzerland. Although some personal attitudes may change slower than the laws, the general public is tolerant of LGBT people and thus bias motivated violence or discrimination is all but unheard of. There is a vibrant LGBT community with a wide range of gay and lesbian subculture in the two main cities of Zurich and Geneva, as well as some on offer in the neighbourhood centres of Basel, Bern, Lucerne, Lausanne, and St. Gallen. Outside of these centres, LGBT people are barely noticed/noticeable in public.


Public promotion of LGBT issues[edit]

Since the mid-1990s, an annual Coming Out Day has been held with various publicity events in order to encourage LGBT people to develop a positive relationship with their identity, particularly among young LGBT people.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalised nationwide in 1942 though in the cantons of Geneva, Ticino, Vaud and Valais, same-sex sexual activities were decriminalized in 1798 in accordance with the Napoleonic Code.

The higher age of consent for same-sex sexual activity (20 years instead of 16 for heterosexual sexual activity) was repealed by the criminal law reform of 1992.[1] In a national referendum on 17 May 1992, 73% of the voters accepted the reform of Swiss Federal legislation on sexual offences, including the elimination of all discrimination against homosexuality from the Penal Code. Article 187 of the Criminal Code states that the general age of consent for sexual activity in Switzerland is 16 years. If one partner is less than 16 years old but the age difference is less than three years, then an exception can be made.

Protection from discrimination[edit]

Since 1999, governmental discrimination based on sexual orientation has been constitutionally prohibited. Article 8 of the Constitution of the Swiss Confederation prohibits discrimination on the basis of way of life. Homosexuality is no longer mentioned in the Military Criminal Code, so LGBT people are allowed to serve in the army.

Claude Janiak, State Councillor (Senator) and former National Council President, is involved in AIDS work, Network, and the Pink Cross.

Pension benefits[edit]

At the end of August 2008, the Federal Court decided that long-term same-sex partners were entitled to the same vested benefits from the pension of the deceased as equivalent opposite sex partners have. A shared apartment is not necessary.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Registered partnerships have been recognized since 1 January 2007, when the Partnership Act came into force. The Canton of Zurich has allowed registered partnerships for some time. In 2007, one in ten of all marriages in the Canton of Zurich were registered partnerships between members of the same sex, and it has registered 702 couples as of 2008.[2]

Sex change and transexualism[edit]

Since February 1, 2012, the Federal Office for Civil Registration (EAZW/OFEC/UFSC) depending of the Federal Department of Justice and Police issued a statement that the country, based on the Council of Europe's recommendations, would cease to oblige a person to go through forced sterilisation in order to have their sex change recognised by the State. Furthermore, a person is granted to choose his or her gender according to his or her social gender and not anymore according to his or her biological gender.[3]

The Federal Office for Civil Registration also stated that either a man or a woman married to a man or a woman would be allowed to transform their opposite-sex marriage into a Registered Partnership. A transgender woman with registered partnership to a man who would become legally recognized as a woman after her sex change would also be allowed to transform her Registered Partnership into a marriage.[4]


Single people, regardless of sexual orientation, may adopt children, but there is no legal provision for same-sex couples to adopt children. However, the law may be revised to allow same-sex couples to adopt following a decision by the European Court of Human Rights on a case in France.[5]

Article 27 of the Registered partnership Law treats the matter of the partner's child/children. The law states that the partner of the biological/adoptive parent must provide financial support for his/her partner's child and also possesses the full legal authority to represent the child in every matter as being the parent's partner. It also states that in the case of the couple's disband, the ex-partner has the right to keep close ties with their ex-partner's child.[6] This article makes Swiss registered partnerships one of the most liberal partnerships, giving the couple a real role in being parents.

On September 30, 2011, the National Council examined the petition "Same Chances For All Families" submitted by a LGBT Organisation asking for Adoption rights. The Lower house debated but refused the petition, though the result (83:97)[7] showed a breakthrough of the partisans of Adoption within the Parliament and an interesting evolution of minds, as for example, Maja Ingold, MP of the Evangelical People's Party of Switzerland, who spoke for more recognition of gay and lesbian parents while her party campaigned against the Registered partnership Act back in 2005. It resulted that the adoption of the partner's child could gather a majority in favour though LGBT couples with no kids still wouldn't get a parliamentary majority to allow them to adopt a child together.

Surprisingly, the Council of States (Senate), traditionally more conservative, accepted a few days later the petition and the Legal Commission even went further, while approving a motion of former MP Claude Janiak (SPS) backing the right to adopt the partner's child. The Commission voted unanimously in favour, including the member of the Swiss People's Party representing the national-conservatist orientation traditionally opposed to LGBT rights.[8]

On March 14, 2012, the Council of States approved (21:19) a complete full extension of adoption rights for homosexuals regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.[9] As the National Council refused it during the debate in September 2011, the bill had to be voted again by the Lower Chamber, which did so on December 13, 2012, as the National Council approved by voting Yes (113:64)[10] to grant homosexuals the right to adopt biological or adopted children that their partner had before the start of their relationship. However, the approved motion of giving full rights to adopt (March 14, 2012) by the Council of States, was refused.[11]

On March 4, 2013, the new version approved on December 13, 2012 by the Lower house is accepted by the Upper house by a majority of 26:16.[12]

The law must now be modified, though a Facultative Referendum is still possible: citizens opposing the law will have to petition against the new law with 50,000 signatures within 100 days.


Article 195 of the Criminal Code makes no distinction between male and female prostitution. Adult and voluntary prostitution is legal, but pimping is prohibited.


Article 197 of the Criminal Code makes no distinction between homosexual and heterosexual pornography. Consumption, trade, import and production of adult pornography is allowed. Hard-core pornography and dissemination of pornography on radio and television are banned. Hard-core pornography includes depictions of violence, excrement, with children or animals in connection with sexuality. The representation of hard S & M, Scat, paedosexuality and zoophilia are therefore prohibited.

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1942)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1992)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 1999)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 1999)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No (pending)
Same-sex marriages No (pending)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (Since 2007)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No (pending)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]