Switzerland – that mysterious multi-lingual land-locked country in the middle of Europe – is, by most measures, a pretty fantastic place to live.
Its citizens are some of the wealthiest in the world (with an average salary of £60K per year), the country consistently ranks near the top of quality of life tables and it has snowy, ski-friendly winters and balmy, sunny summers. BRB just applying for my Swiss passport.
According to Gay Times, Switzerland’s National Council voted by 118-60 votes to update the penal code, and people who break the law could face up to three years in jail.
Mathias Reynard, a member of the Swiss Socialist Party who proposed the law, celebrated its success on Twitter.
“Victory! By 118 against 60 and 5 abstentions, the National Council accepts my parliamentary initiative against homophobia and transphobia!” he said.
“A great success for human rights! Final response in December to the Council of States.”
After the vote, Reynard, 31, said: “Homophobia is not an opinion. It’s a crime. One in five homosexuals attempted suicide, half before the age of 20. This victory sends a strong signal. I have already received hundreds of reactions.”
In the UK, meanwhile, someone can be charged with a homophobic or transphobic hate crime, meaning the judge can impose a tougher sentence on the offender under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
While this is undoubtedly a fantastic step, Switzerland still has a way to go before it can claim to be a truly LGBTQ-friendly country. As of 2018, same-sex couples don’t have equal rights in terms of marriage, tax, fertility, welfare or adoption in the nation.
ShortList chatted with the man behind the new law Mathias Reynard, who is heterosexual, about what inspired him to push for the legislation – and what else Switzerland needs to do to protect its LGBTQ citizens.
What inspired you to push for these new LGBTQ laws?
“I tabled the motion after speaking to friends of mine who have personally been victims of verbal and physical homophobic violence.
“And working on this law I found out that the Swiss case-law doesn’t punish either hate speech or incitement to hatred towards LGBT+ people. During the last few years, this loophole in the law has been pointed out several times at an international level.
“To me, it is a matter of human rights and of living well together.
“We’ve had lots of cases of homophobic physical violence reported on the front pages in Switzerland in the past months so it’s time for things to change.
“The Swiss Parliament’s decision is great news because it sends the powerful message that homophobia is not an opinion; as for racism, it’s a violation of the law.”
What else does Switzerland need to do to protect LGBTQ people?
“Now the Swiss Senate must accept my motion in December but there will be a lot more work to do in terms of educating people and collecting more data on discrimination and homophobic and transphobic violence.
“Gay marriage is now being discussed in the Swiss Parliament and I will commit to this subject so it can become a reality in the next few years.”
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(Images: Getty / Twitter)