For conservative Switzerland being far behind its European counterparts in advocating LGBTQ rights the changes may be around the corner. May be, since this Sunday the country will hold a referendum. This time the people will decide on whether to uphold anti-discrimination policies introduced by the government in 2018. Alpine country seems to be strongly divided over the matter. The referendum was initiated by Federal Democratic Union party. It is backed by Christian conservatives who secured 50k signatures necessary for launching referendum in accordance with Swiss law. What are the arguments of both sides and why Swiss LGBTQ community appeared to be divided as well regarding the vote?
“I trust the Swiss people will not let themselves be censored,” says Marc Früh from Federal Democratic Union party. Is it really censorship when insulting others is prohibited? Isn’t it just about being a human and a citizen who respects his or her fellow citizens? Eric Bertinat from UDC (Democratic Union of the Centre) is concerned the law to be a "part of an LGBT plan to slowly move towards same-sex marriage and medically assisted reproduction" for gay couples. Really? Are they forbidden to do so? Is it not allowed to enjoy the same rights for all Swiss citizens?
Unfortunately, it’s not the end of the story. Officials keep saying about various limitations of the law. For instance, Alain Berset, Interior Minister claimed that the jokes about gays are acceptable “as long as they respect human dignity”. Who is to define whether dignity was respected? What is more, the protections to be provided with the new law do not include gender identity. That is, the law simply ignores the existence of trans people. Finally, you can still practice any kind of coarse language with respect to LGBTQ community with your family and friends. The bottom line is that homophobia is allowed, just limited.
What are the opinions expressed by LGBTQ community regarding the matter? They vary. For Jean-Pierre Sigrist, 71, the law is a hope that his decades-long humiliation may come to the end. "And maybe I would not have been laughed at when I went to the police," he said. Jean-Pierre supports freedom of speech, "but not the freedom to say anything at all". What could be more reasonable? On the other hand, LGBTQ group “No to Special Rights” opposes the law. "I fight for the acceptance and normalisation of my sexuality. But for me that also means not asking for special treatment," read the statement of Michael Frauchiger, co-head of the group. Such a step would be great if no homophobia was present. As of now, protections are vital.
What about statistics of homophobic outrages? In fact, it is alarming. Studies indicate that 80% of gays and two thirds of lesbians were targeted by offenders at least once in their life. What is more, attacks have intensified ahead of the referendum. The most recent reported case happened in Geneva with 41-year-old lesbian Jehanne. She was repeatedly insulted for the support of LGBTQ rights promotion. The worst thing about her case was that the offender had a clear understanding that no punishment to be expected for him. Moreover, no strangers made an attempt to intervene and help Jehanne. “I was shaking, I was crying too,” she said. These are the realms of LGBTQ life in Switzerland.