Women in Switzerland

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Women in Switzerland
A curious costume, Champery.jpg
Women of Champéry, 1912
Gender Inequality Index[2]
Value0.030 (2013)
Rank2nd out of 152
Maternal mortality (per 100,000)8 (2010)
Women in parliament27.2% (2013)
Females over 25 with secondary education95.0% (2012)
Women in labour force76% (employment rate OECD definition, 2015)[1]
Global Gender Gap Index[3]
Value0.7736 (2013)
Rank9th out of 149

Women in Switzerland are women who live in 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[4] 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.[6]

Prominent Swiss women in the fields of business and law include Emilie Kempin-Spyri (1853–1901), the first woman to graduate with a law degree and to be accepted as an academic lecturer in the country,[5] 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.[7][8]


Women obtained the right to vote in national elections in 1971.[9] Women obtained the right to vote at local canton level between 1959 (the cantons of Vaud and Neuchâtel in that year) and 1991 (the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden).[10][11]

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).[12][13][14][15] Adultery was decriminalized in 1989.[16] Divorce laws were also reformed in 2000 and 2005. In 2004 marital rape became a state offense in Switzerland.[17] In 1992, the law was changed to end discrimination against married women with regard to national citizenship.[18] In 2013, further reforms to the civil code followed, removing the remaining discriminatory provisions regarding the spouses' choice of family name and cantonal citizenship law.[19]

Until the late 20th century, most cantons had regulations banning unmarried cohabitation of couples. The last canton to end such prohibition was Valais, in 1995.[20][21] As of 2015, 22.5% of births were to unmarried women. [22]


Women face significant struggles with regards to work for pay.[23] Although most women are employed, many are so on a part-time basis or in marginal employment. The view that women, especially married women, should not work full-time remains prevalent. Among the OECD, only the Netherlands has more women working part-time.[24] Although the law no longer requires the husband's consent for a wife's work, in job interviews women are often asked for it. Taxation penalizing dual-income families exists in some cantons. The OECD has stated that "The lack of family-friendly policy and workplace support makes it very difficult for many Swiss parents, usually mothers, to combine work and family life".[25] The OECD has also urged Switzerland to end the practice of irregular and interrupted school hours which makes it difficult for mothers to work; and to revise its tax and supplementary benefits policies.[25] Despite all these, women have a legal right to work and to not be discriminated in the workforce, under the 1996 equality law.[18] In 2005, paid maternity leave was introduced in Switzerland, after voters approved it in a referendum. Four previous attempts to secure it had previously failed at the ballot box.[26]

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 does not complain).[27][28] Switzerland also ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in 2012.[29]

Fertility and reproductive rights[edit]

The maternal mortality rate in Switzerland is 8.00 deaths/100,000 live births (as of 2010).[30] 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.[31] 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.[32]

Non-sexist use of languages[edit]

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[33] 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."[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DatasetCode=LFS_SEXAGE_I_R#
  2. ^ "Table 4: Gender Inequality Index". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  3. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013" (PDF). World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13.
  4. ^ a b Switzerland, everyculture.com
  5. ^ a b The right to vote, swissworld.org
  6. ^ Wilton, Isabelle. Women still climbing to the top in business, swissinfo.ch, March 7, 2011
  7. ^ 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. " (...)
  8. ^ Doing business in Switzerland, expatica.com Quote: (...) "In Swiss business culture, few women hold high-level positions" (...)
  9. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY - 7 - 1971: Swiss women get the vote". bbc.co.uk.
  10. ^ "Women dominate new Swiss cabinet". BBC News.
  11. ^ "BBC NEWS - Europe - Naked Swiss hikers must cover up". bbc.co.uk.
  12. ^ "SWISS GRANT WOMEN EQUAL MARRIAGE RIGHTS". The New York Times. 23 September 1985. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  13. ^ "Switzerland profile - Timeline - BBC News". bbc.com. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  14. ^ Switzerland, Markus G. Jud, Lucerne. "The Long Way to Women's Right to Vote in Switzerland: a Chronology". geschichte-schweiz.ch. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  15. ^ Women's movements of the world: an international directory and reference guide, edited by Sally Shreir, p. 254
  16. ^ Head-König, Anne-Lise. "Adultère". hls-dhs-dss.ch. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  17. ^ "Microsoft Word - 1750.doc" (PDF). Admin.ch. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  18. ^ a b "Concluding comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Switzerland : Combined initial and second periodic report" (PDF). Un.org. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  19. ^ "Pétition Jeanneret Michel-Alain. Contre la discrimination des personnes homosexuelles, bisexuelles et trans-genres" (PDF). Parliament.ch. Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  20. ^ "Dictionnaire Suisse de politique sociale : Union libre". socialinfo.ch. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  21. ^ "NATIONAL REPORT: SWITZERLAND" (PDF). Ceflonline.net. Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  22. ^ "Naissances et fécondité". admin.ch. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  23. ^ Baldwin, Leigh. "Why Swiss Women Can't Work After Winning Votes to Lead Nation". bloomberg.com. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  24. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016. Retrieved April 4, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ a b "Give Swiss Working Mothers More Support to Avoid Labour Shortages and Foster Economic Growth - OECD". oecd.org. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  26. ^ "Maternity benefit finally sees light of day - SWI swissinfo.ch". swissinfo.ch. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  27. ^ "Dictionnaire Suisse de politique sociale : Infractions contre l'intégrité sexuelle". socialinfo.ch. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  28. ^ "Que faire spécifiquement en cas de viol ou de contraintes sexuelles ? - Centre LAVI Genève - Agressions Violences conjugales Violences sexuelles Accidents de la circulation". centrelavi-ge.ch. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  29. ^ "Liste complète". coe.int. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  30. ^ "The World Factbook". cia.gov. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  31. ^ Swiss Penal Code , SR/RS 311.0 (E·D·F·I), art. 119 (E·D·F·I)
  32. ^ Cumming-Bruce, Nick. Women Now a Majority in Swiss Government, The New York Times, September 22, 2010.
  33. ^ "Dr. Daniel Elmiger: Maître d'enseignement et de recherche". Département de langue et de littérature allemandes, Université de Genève. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  34. ^ Elmiger, Daniel (February 2013). "The government in contact with its citizens: Translations of federal information in multilingual Swiss administration". Gender and Language. 7 (1): 59–74. doi:10.1558/genl.v7i1.59.

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