The development of women’s rights in Switzerland

February 7, 1971

In a referendum, male citizens say yes to women’s right to vote and stand for election

The first federal elections in which women participated were held in October of that year. They achieve 10 seats out of 200 in the National Council, 1 in 46 in the Council of States.

January 1, 1978

Women are given custody of their children

The entry into force of the new child’s right improves the status of mothers. Married parents jointly exercise custody – formerly called paternal power – over their children. If they are not married, it is now the mother who has custody.

June 1, 1979

Opening of the first house for abused women in Zurich

This place offers protection against domestic violence, counseling and support for women and their children.

June 14, 1981

Equality between women and men is part of the federal constitution

The people and the cantons approve the incorporation of the principle of equal rights into the Constitution. It is said in art. 8 pcs. 3: “Man and woman have equal rights. The law ensures equality in legislation and in fact, especially in the areas of family, education and work. Men and women are entitled to equal pay for work of equal value.

February 12, 1982

Court rulings reject stricter entry requirements for girls in education

The Federal Court believes that it is illegal to practice discrimination between boys and girls when enrolling in a high school education. He thus gives rise to the parents of several young girls educated in the canton of Vaud, who had filed suit to terminate the conditions of admission to college, which are stricter for girls than for boys.

October 1, 1984

The radical Elisabeth Kopp from Zurich is the first woman elected to the Federal Council

During her time as head of the Ministry of Justice and Police, she dealt mainly with asylum policy and worked to improve the status of women. Her career as a federal councilor ended prematurely in 1988 after a scandal: Elisabeth Kopp had called her husband to urge him to resign from the board of a company suspected of money laundering.

September 1, 1988

Establishment of the Federal Office for Gender Equality

This new body, set up by the Federal Council, has a mandate to encourage “the achievement of gender equality in all areas” and to eliminate “all forms of direct or indirect discrimination”. During the following years, other equality offices were established in several cantons.

January 1, 1988

In the revision of the marriage law, the provision that the man is the head of the family and the woman responsible for domestic duties disappears. Women can now open a bank account or perform a paid activity without the consent of their husbands.

November 27, 1990

Introduction of voting rights with forceps in the last canton

The Federal Court interprets Appenzell Innerrhoden’s constitution in favor of women’s political rights and orders the refractory canton to introduce the right to vote and stand for election for women.

June 14, 1991

National Women’s Strike

The constitutional clause on equal rights between women and men is 10 years old, but it is not applied. Under the slogan “Women with folded arms, the country is losing its footing”, half a million women take to the streets to demand maternity insurance, parental leave, childcare places, an education without sexism or even a better division of labor.

January 1, 1992

New nationality law allows women to keep their Swiss passports when marrying a foreigner

Conversely, foreign women no longer automatically obtain Swiss citizenship by marriage.

May 17, 1992

Under the new Sexual Penal Code, marital rape can be prosecuted upon appeal

The new penal code on sexual matters, which is accepted during a referendum, is based on the principles of freedom of decision in matters of sexuality and the protection of a harmonious sexual development.

March 10, 1993

Ruth Dreifuss has been elected to the Federal Council

A man is elected to the Federal Council in place of the official candidate Christiane Brunner. Under pressure from women, he withdrew and the Geneva Socialist became Federal Council.

June 25, 1999

The 10th revision of the ACP introduces the “division” and training bonus

During the referendum, the population goes out for innovations in old-age support. The audit stipulates two individual pensions instead of a couple’s pension, supplements to educational tasks and ancillary tasks as well as “splitting”, during which the income earned during the marriage is divided by half.

July 1, 1996

Entry into force of the Federal Gender Equality Act

General prohibition of discrimination in working life, whether it concerns employment, remuneration, promotion, assignment of tasks or termination of employment. Sexual harassment in the workplace is also prohibited.

July 2, 2002

Approval by referendum on the “deadline regime”

Abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy is decriminalized.

March 27, 1997

Membership of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

Switzerland is one of the last countries to sign this text, which contains detailed provisions against discrimination against women in politics, public life, the economy, culture, society and civil law. It requires Switzerland to submit a regular report on the situation regarding gender equality.

October 3, 2003

Amendment of the Penal Code

Acts of violence, sexual coercion and rape between spouses and partners are now being prosecuted ex officio. The Federal Chambers adopts an amendment to the Swiss Penal Code (CP) to this end.

September 26, 2004

Yes to 14 weeks maternity paid with 80%

The population accepts the revision of the LAPG. Employees and self-employed women are therefore now entitled to a maternity benefit of 14 weeks, where they receive 80% of the income earned before the loss of work.

June 5, 2005

Yes to the federal law on registered same-sex partnership

Gay couples can now be registered at the civil registry office and therefore have almost the same rights and duties as married couples.

July 1, 2012

Prohibition of female genital mutilation

According to the new art. 124 of the Penal Code, is punishable “anyone who mutilates female genitals, seriously or permanently compromises their natural function or inflicts other harm on them”. At the same time, the awareness-raising and counseling work is intensified.

January 1, 2013

New egalitarian naming law enters into force

At the time of the wedding, the woman and the man can keep their birth name or choose a common surname.

March 20, 2015

New provision on child support

Maintenance allowance is now defined as a right for the child, and children of unmarried couples are placed on an equal footing with children of married couples.

December 3, 2018

Revision of the Gender Equality Act passed

The text dictates companies with more than 100 people to control the wages of men and women, but does not contain a control mechanism.

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