Experts urge Swiss to better combat violence against women

GENEVA (AP) — European human rights experts urged authorities in Switzerland on Tuesday to do more to protect women from violence both at home and in society.

A group of independent experts working with the Council of Europe, a Strasbourg, France-based human rights body, issued their first report on Switzerland as part of efforts to ensure application of an accord to prevent violence against women worldwide.

Some 37 countries are state parties to the Istanbul Convention, which Switzerland ratified in 2018. Ukraine and Britain are among the countries up next for review.

A summary of the experts’ report on Switzerland cited “a lack of definitions” on violence against women and domestic violence, inadequate programs to combat all types of violence against women, “and the fact that women victims of violence do not have equal access to shelter accommodation and high-quality assistance throughout the country.”

Switzerland has taken some steps to ensure a better response for women who have experienced violence, such as in medical centers in Lausanne or Bern, said Francoise Kempf, who helps monitor application of the Istanbul Convention.

But cantonal, or regional, discrepancies are vast, and protections and support services — and funding for them — vary too much depending on where the victim might be, Kempf said.

Switzerland’s parliament is considering a bill that would strengthen some protections for women. But victims of sexual violence would still have to express their lack of consent for sexual acts – either verbally or some other way – for the acts to be punishable in court.

“As a result, criminal proceedings will always focus on the victims’ actions rather than those of the accused, leaving room for gender stereotypes and rape myths,” the Council of Europe report said.

The report also cited a lack of data collection about gender-based violence and difficulties in tracking cases as they move from initial police reports through the judicial system.

The Swiss government noted the report and recognized its recommendations about expanding efforts to fight violence against women and carrying out studies to gather more data on various forms of violence. It also noted Switzerland’s efforts to comply with the Istanbul Convention.

Switzerland has often trailed behind other European countries in boosting and ensuring women’s rights, at times leading to boisterous, large protests to demand change.

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