Switzerland: Yes to tighter anti-discrimination law

In Switzerland, discriminating against people on the basis of their sexual orientation will in future be a criminal offence. In a referendum on Sunday, 63 percent voted in favour of a corresponding extension of the anti-discrimination law. An initiative for more affordable housing, by contrast, was defeated. Some members of the press are sceptical about whether the results of the referendum are useful.

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Die Welt (DE) /

Hats off to unorthodox pragmatism

The most recent referendum has once again produced a result that runs counter to all the usual political camps, Die Welt writes in astonishment:

“A clear majority [in Switzerland] spoke out against state intervention in the housing market - which is regarded as 'right-wing'; at the same time the Swiss voted for harsher punishment of hate against homosexuals - a cause that is regarded as 'left-wing'. What the two votes have in common is their liberal spirit. ... If you look at the list of votes cast in recent years - against an unconditional basic income, against increased deportation of criminals - the impression you are left with is that of an unorthodox, pragmatic population that is enviable.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Opinions should not be criminalised

Fabio Pontiggia, editor-in-chief of Corriere del Ticino, fears that freedom of expression could be restricted:

“A liberal democracy should ban and severely punish actions that are discriminatory, but not ideas that express illiberal values, no matter how crass and repugnant they may be. However, Article 261a of the penal code (and 171c of the military code) do not make this distinction ... The fact that a community feels the need to enshrine the persecution of opinions in a law is worrying: on the one hand because it is a sign that certain shocking and bizarre ideas are widespread; on the other hand because when listing the ideas to be punished under criminal law one knows where to start, but not where to end.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Criminal law doesn't change attitudes

The question of how the law should actually protect against discrimination reveals exaggerated expectations, says the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“Many hope that the new penal norm will be able to reduce existing resentment against gays and lesbians. This is unrealistic. Criminal law does not change people's attitudes, it's a coercive tool. Significantly, the attitude towards homosexuals has changed in the last generation without any criminal law intervention: Today, 'marriage for all' is on the verge of a political breakthrough. The effect of the law adopted on Sunday is therefore above all symbolic. It will play a minor role in legal practice. Moreover, the fact that criminal law selectively protects human dignity remains unsatisfactory.”