Women in Switzerland

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Women in Switzerland
A curious costume, Champery.jpg
Women of Champéry, 1912
Gender Inequality Index[1]
Value 0.030 (2013)
Rank 2nd out of 152
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 8 (2010)
Women in parliament 27.2% (2013)
Females over 25 with secondary education 95.0% (2012)
Women in labour force 61.2% (2012)
Global Gender Gap Index[2]
Value 0.7736 (2013)
Rank 9th out of 136

Women in Switzerland are women who live and are from Switzerland. The legal and social role of Swiss women has evolved significantly from the mid-20th century onwards.

Traditional views[edit]

Tradition dictates that the place of Swiss women is in the home in charge of housework and child care. Being in a society with strong patriarchal roots, Swiss tradition also places women under the authority of their fathers and their husbands.[3] Such adherence to tradition changed and improved when the women of Switzerland gained their right to vote at the federal level in February 7, 1971.[4] However, despite of gaining status of having equal rights with men, some Swiss women still have to be able to attain education beyond the post-secondary level, thus they earn less money than men, and they occupy lower-level job positions.[3] According to swissinfo.ch in 2011, Switzerland's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) were encouraging business companies to "appoint more women to top-level positions". Those who are already working in business companies, according to same report, mentions that "women earn on average 20% less than men" in Switzerland, and the ratio was 6 out of 10 women were working part-time.[5]

Prominent Swiss women in the fields of business and law include Emilie Kempin-Spyri (1853–1901), the first woman to become a lawyer in the country,[4] and Isabelle Welton, the head of IBM Switzerland and one of few women in the country who are holding top-level positions in business firms.[6][7]


Women obtained the right to vote in national elections in 1971.[8] Women obtained the right to vote at local canton level between 1959 (the catons of Vaud and Neuchâtel in that year) and 1991 (the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden).[9][10]

Marriage and family life[edit]

Family life has been traditionally conservative, following the model of a male breadwinner and a female housewife. In Europe, Switzerland was one of the last countries to establish gender equality in marriage: married women's rights were severely restricted until 1988, when legal reforms providing gender equality in marriage, abolishing the legal authority of the husband, come into force (these reforms had been approved in 1985 by voters in a referendum, who narrowly voted in favor with 54.7% of voters approving).[11][12][13][14] Divorce laws were also reformed in 2000 and 2005. In 2013, further reforms to the civil code followed, removing the remaining discriminatory provisions regarding the spouses' choice of family name and citizenship law.[15] As of 2014, 21.7% of births were to unmarried women. [16]

Violence against women[edit]

As in other Western countries, the 1990s and the 21st century saw reforms with regard to laws on domestic violence. Marital rape was made illegal in 1992, and since 2004 marital rape is prosecutable ex-officio (meaning it can be prosecuted even if the wife doesn't complain).[17][18] Switzerland also ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in 2012.[19]

Fertility and reproductive rights[edit]

Further information: Abortion in Switzerland

The maternal mortality rate in Switzerland is 8.00 deaths/100,000 live births (as of 2010).[20] Abortion laws were liberalized in 2002. Abortion is legal during the first trimester, upon condition of counseling, for women who state that they are in distress; and at later stages for medical reasons.[21] The total fertility rate is 1.54 children born/per woman (est. of 2014) which is below the replacement rate of 2.1.


In 2010, The New York Times reported that women became the majority within the Swiss government, with 6 women holding ministerial positions.[22]

Non-sexist use of languages[edit]

Further information: Languages of Switzerland

The Federal Administration of Switzerland regularly uses three languages: German, French and Italian (Rhaeto-Romanic, or Romansh, is used less regularly). An article by Daniel Elmiger[23] states that, "the new Federal Language Law (Sprachengesetz, Loi sur les langues, Legge sulle lingue, Lescha da linguas) adopted in 2007 demands that official language use [for official texts] must be adequate, clear and intelligible as well as non-sexist. Non-sexist language has been required in the German section of the Federal Chancellery for about 15 years, whereas the French and Italian sections have shown little interest in modifying their use of language, sticking to a more traditional language use in which masculine terms are used both specifically as well as generically."[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Table 4: Gender Inequality Index". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  2. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013" (PDF). World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13. 
  3. ^ a b Switzerland, everyculture.com
  4. ^ a b The right to vote, swissworld.org
  5. ^ Wilton, Isabelle. Women still climbing to the top in business, swissinfo.ch, March 7, 2011
  6. ^ Communication Styles in Switzerland, worldbusinessculture.com Quote: (...) "Women are making ever-deeper inroads into what was once a predominantly male-dominated world of Swiss business life. Although it is not too common to see women at the very top end of the management strata, the 'glass ceiling' is being slowly dismantled. " (...)
  7. ^ Doing business in Switzerland, expatica.com Quote: (...) "In Swiss business culture, few women hold high-level positions" (...)
  8. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY - 7 - 1971: Swiss women get the vote". bbc.co.uk. 
  9. ^ "Women dominate new Swiss cabinet". BBC News. 
  10. ^ "BBC NEWS - Europe - Naked Swiss hikers must cover up". bbc.co.uk. 
  11. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1985/09/23/world/swiss-grant-women-equal-marriage-rights.html
  12. ^ http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17988450
  13. ^ http://history-switzerland.geschichte-schweiz.ch/chronology-womens-right-vote-switzerland.html
  14. ^ Women's movements of the world: an international directory and reference guide, edited by Sally Shreir, p. 254
  15. ^ http://www.parlament.ch/sites/kb/2013/Rapport_de_la_commission_CAJ-N_13.2020_2014-11-13.pdf
  16. ^ http://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/portal/fr/index/themen/01/06/blank/key/02.html
  17. ^ http://www.socialinfo.ch/cgi-bin/dicoposso/show.cfm?id=432
  18. ^ http://www.centrelavi-ge.ch/index.php?q=victimes-que-faire/violences-sexuelles/que-faire-specifiquement-en-cas-de-viol-ou-de-contraintes
  19. ^ http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/Commun/ChercheSig.asp?NT=197&CM=8&DF=&CL=ENG
  20. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2223rank.html
  21. ^ Swiss Penal Code , SR/RS 311.0 (E·D·F·I), art. 119 (E·D·F·I)
  22. ^ Cumming-Bruce, Nick. Women Now a Majority in Swiss Government, The New York Times, September 22, 2010.
  23. ^ "Dr. Daniel Elmiger: Maître d'enseignement et de recherche". Département de langue et de littérature allemandes, Université de Genève. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  24. ^ Elmiger, Daniel (February 2013). "The government in contact with its citizens: Translations of federal information in multilingual Swiss administration". Gender and Language (Equinox) 7 (1): 59–74. doi:10.1558/genl.v7i1.59. 

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