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Switzerland: Prohibition on Sexual Orientation Discrimination Will Apply Starting July 1

(Apr. 30, 2020) In its session of April 3, 2020, the Swiss Federal Council, the country’s government, decided that a prohibition on discrimination due to sexual orientation will enter into force on July 1, 2020. The necessary amendments to the Criminal Code and the Military Criminal Code had been adopted by the Swiss Parliament on December 14, 2019, and approved by the Swiss people in a referendum on February 9, 2020, with an approval rate of 63.1%.

Currently, the Swiss Criminal Code and the Military Criminal Code criminalize inciting hatred or discrimination only on the grounds of race, ethnic origin, or religion. (Criminal Code § 261bis; Military Criminal Code § 171c.) The amendments add “sexual orientation” to the list. The discriminating behavior must be public and intentional, and must violate human dignity; private statements made in someone’s circle of family or friends are not prohibited. (Explanatory Memorandum at 19.) Furthermore, denying services to a person due to his or her sexual orientation will now be prohibited. These crimes will be punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years or a fine.