* Adopted by the Committee at its sixty-fifth session (24 October-18 November 2016).
Concluding observations on the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of Switzerland *
1.The Committee considered the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of Switzerland (CEDAW/C/CHE/4-5) at its 1445th and 1446th meetings, on 2 November 2016 (see CEDAW/SR.1445 and 1446). The Committee’s list of issues and questions is contained in CEDAW/C/CHE/Q/4-5 and the responses of Switzerland are contained in CEDAW/C/CHE/Q/4-5Add.1.
2.The Committee appreciates the submission by the State party of its combined fourth and fifth periodic reports. It also appreciates the State party’s written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by the pre-sessional working group and welcomes the oral presentation by the delegation and the further clarifications provided in response to the questions posed orally by the Committee during the dialogue and the information provided electronically following the dialogue.
3.The Committee commends the State party on its multisectoral delegation, which was headed by the Director of the Federal Office for Gender Equality, Sylvie Durrer, and her colleagues from the Directorates of Legal Affairs and Domestic Violence within the Federal Office for Gender Equality. The delegation was further composed of representatives from the Federal Department of Home Affairs (including the Federal Statistical Office, the Federal Social Insurance Office, the Federal Service against Racism and the Secretariat for Demographics and Migration), the Federal Department of Justice and Police (including the State Secretariat for Migration, the Federal Office of Police and the Directorate of Public Law), the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (including the Directorate of International Law, the Directorate of Human Security and the General Secretariat for Equality), the Federal Department of Finance (including the Federal Office of Personnel), the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (including the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs) and representatives of the Cantonal Office of Gender Equality in Berne and the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva. The Committee appreciates the constructive dialogue that took place between the delegation and the members of the Committee.
4.The Committee welcomes the progress achieved since its consideration in 2009 of the State party’s third periodic report (CEDAW/C/CHE/CO/3) in undertaking legislative reforms, in particular the adoption of the following:
(a)Federal Act on Measures against Forced Marriages, in 2013;
(b)Article 124 of the Criminal Code, prohibiting female genital mutilation.
5.The Committee welcomes the State party’s efforts to improve its institutional and policy framework aimed at accelerating the elimination of discrimination against women and promoting gender equality, including the adoption or establishment of the following:
(a)Gender Equality Guidelines in the Legislative Programme (2016-2019);
(b)Sustainable Development Strategy (2016-2019);
(c)National Migration and Health Programme (2014-2017);
(d)National Action Plan against Trafficking in Persons (2012-2014);
(e)Federal Programme against Forced Marriage (2013-2017);
(f)National Action Plan on Equality between Men and Women (2010-2014);
(g)National Action Plan on Women and Peace and Security (2013-2016);
(h)Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, in 2013;
(i)Equal Opportunity for Women and Men at Universities/Gender Studies Programme (2013-2016);
(j)Equal Opportunity at Universities of Applied Sciences Programme (2013-2016);
(k)Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights, in 2011.
6.The Committee welcomes the fact that, in the period since the consideration of the previous report, the State party has ratified or acceded to the following international and regional instruments:
(a)Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto, both in 2014;
(b)International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, in 2011;
(c)Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, in 2009;
(d)Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183), of the International Labour Organization, in 2014;
(e)Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189), of the International Labour Organization, in 2014.
7. The Committee stresses the crucial role of the legislative power in ensuring the full implementation of the Convention (see the statement by the Committee on its relationship with parliamentarians, adopted at the forty-fifth session, in 2010). It invites the Federal Assembly, in line with its mandate, to take the necessary steps regarding the implementation of the present concluding observations between now and the next reporting period under the Convention.
D.Principal areas of concern and recommendations
Withdrawal of reservations
8.The Committee welcomes the State party’s withdrawal of its reservation to article 16 (1) (g) of the Convention in 2013, but is concerned that the State party has yet to withdraw its reservation to articles 15 (2) and 16 (1) (h).
9. The Committee reiterates its previous concluding observations (see CEDAW/C/CHE/CO/3 , para. 12) and urges the State party to indicate in its next periodic report, if possible and still relevant, a timetable for the withdrawal of its reservation to articles 15 (2) and 16 (1) (h) concerning the law governing the matrimonial regime applicable before 1 January 1988.
Visibility of the Convention, the Optional Protocol thereto and the Committee’s general recommendations
10.The Committee notes as positive the establishment of an interdepartmental working group under the auspices of the Federal Office for Gender Equality to monitor the implementation of the State party’s commitments under the Convention. Nevertheless, it remains concerned that disparities in the implementation of the Convention across cantons and communities have not been sufficiently addressed. The Committee is also concerned at the inadequate reference to the Convention in judicial proceedings at the federal and cantonal levels, as well as at the limited awareness of the Convention and the general recommendations of the Committee as important tools of interpretation within the judiciary and the legal profession, and among women themselves.
11. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Develop a sustainable strategy, at both the federal and cantonal levels, including by allocating adequate financial resources, to disseminate the Convention, the Optional Protocol thereto and the Committee’s general recommendations among all stakeholders, including women’s organizations;
(b) Enhance efforts to develop a public information campaign on the Convention and raise awareness among women, including women belonging to disadvantaged groups, especially migrant, asylum-seeking, refugee and minority women, as well as women with disabilities, about their rights under the Convention and corresponding remedies;
(c) Take the legislative measures necessary to give full effect to the rights under the Convention within the national legal order and promote the justiciability of such rights;
(d) Promote capacity-building programmes for judges, prosecutors and lawyers on the Convention, the Optional Protocol thereto, the Committee’s general recommendations, the Committee’s recommendations on the reporting procedure and the Committee’s views on individual communications, as well as inquiry and reporting procedure findings, and enable them to directly apply or invoke, respectively, those instruments in national courts and in order to interpret national legislation accordingly.
Application of the Convention under the federal system
12.The Committee appreciates the explanation provided during the dialogue with the State party in relation to the direct applicability of the Convention, but reiterates its concern (see CEDAW/C/CHE/CO/3, para. 15) that, in accordance with the principle of monism, the decision to directly apply provisions of the Convention is at the discretion of the Federal Court and other judicial authorities at the federal and cantonal levels.
13. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (see CEDAW/C/CHE/CO/3 , para. 16) that the State party conduct awareness-raising campaigns about the Convention aimed at the judiciary, legal professionals and the general public. The Committee also encourages the State party to provide systematic training to the judiciary, law enforcement officials and legal professionals on the Convention, with a view to encouraging them to use the Convention in judicial and administrative proceedings.
14.The Committee notes as positive the decision taken by the Federal Court to analyse in detail the State party’s obligations arising from article 2 (a) of the Convention and from the Committee’s previous concluding observations. Nevertheless, the Committee regrets that the scope of the definitions of discrimination against women and equality of women and men, as applied by the Court, remains unchanged and that the “Constitution does not confer any right to establish equality ‘in fact’ (de facto)”. It is further concerned that, although article 8 of the new Constitution provides for a broad definition of the principle of equality, it is inadequately applied.
15. In accordance with the State party’s obligations under the Convention and in line with target 5.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals, to end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere, the Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (see CEDAW/C/CHE/CO/3 , para. 18) that the State party take steps to ensure that the principles of equality of women and men and non-discrimination against women are applied in accordance with article 1 of the Convention.
Women and peace and security
16.The Committee welcomes the State party’s third National Action Plan on Women and Peace and Security (2013-2016), in line with Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), which has been developed with the involvement of civil society actors, and commends the State party for its important role in humanitarian and development operations. Nevertheless, the Committee is concerned about:
(a)The limited participation and inclusion of women in peace processes;
(b)Insufficient efforts to include a gender perspective in strategies to prevent violent extremism and counter terrorism;
(c)The negative impact on women of the small arms trade and the export of arms and munitions to conflict zones, as well as the inadequate monitoring of arms-producing corporations with regard to the use of their arms in violence against women, in line with their obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty.
17. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Intensify efforts to include women in negotiations and mediation activities, including at the senior level, and provide technical assistance in conflict-resolution processes to countries emerging from conflict and promote the effective participation of women in that regard;
(b) Strengthen its efforts to include a gender perspective in strategies to prevent violent extremism and build the capacity of women and girls, including women civil society groups, to engage in efforts to counter terrorism;
(c) Promote the mainstreaming of gender issues in its policy and operational activities, monitor the impact of the misuse and illicit trade of small arms and light weapons on women, including those living in conflict zones, and ensure that arms-producing corporations monitor and report on the use of their arms in violence against women.
National machinery for the advancement of women and gender mainstreaming
18.The Committee welcomes the establishment of the Swiss Centre of Expertise on Human Rights in 2011 and notes the efforts made by the State party to strengthen cooperation among relevant institutional structures and mechanisms. Nevertheless, it is concerned about:
(a)The lack of an overall integrated strategy for gender mainstreaming and the decision by the Federal Council not to implement gender budgeting;
(b)The absence of a comprehensive national gender equality strategy, policy and action plan that addresses the structural factors causing persistent gender inequalities;
(c)The negative impact of budgetary considerations on the human and financial resources of equality offices or commissions in most cantons, including the Federal Office for Gender Equality and the Federal Commission for Women’s Issues, and the lack of sufficient authority and visibility of these organizations;
(d)Uncertainty as to the status of the Swiss Centre of Expertise on Human Rights and indications by the State party of only a short-term plan to extend its mandate for five years and the need to strengthen the independence of the Centre’s members;
(e)Shortfalls in ensuring that gender-neutral language applies to all of the State party’s official languages.
19. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Reconsider its decision in relation to gender mainstreaming and review the Committee’s previous recomme ndation (see CEDAW/C/CHE/CO/3 , para. 22) to adopt an integrated gender mainstreaming strategy, including through the use of gender-budgeting processes, with effective monitoring and accountability mechanisms across all sectors and levels of government;
(b) Develop a comprehensive national gender strategy, policy and action plan that addresses the structural factors causing persistent inequalities, including intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls;
(c) Strengthen the existing equality offices and commissions at the cantonal level and ensure that they, along with the Federal Office for Gender Equality and the Federal Commission for Women’s Issues, are provided with the authority, visibility and human and financial resources necessary to effectively advance women’s rights and regularly assess progress in the implementation of federal and cantonal gender equality policies, plans and programmes and evaluate the impact of such efforts;
(d) Strengthen the mandate of the Swiss Centre of Expertise on Human Rights, in particular with regard to gender equality, and ensure that it complies with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the Paris Principles);
(e) Ensure that gender-neutral language is applied to legislation in all of the State party’s official languages.
Temporary special measures
20.The Committee notes as positive the measures taken to advance the achievement of substantive equality in the State party; however, it remains concerned about the underrepresentation of women in extraparliamentary commissions and other bodies, governing bodies of companies and institutions closely connected with the Federation, as well as their underrepresentation in high-level management and decision-making positions. It is also concerned about the low numbers of women professors in academic institutions and of women judges at all levels of the judiciary.
21. With reference to its general recommendation No. 25 (2004) on temporary special measures, the Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (see CEDAW/C/CHE/CO/3 , para. 24) and urges the State party to further adopt and implement measures, either as temporary special measures or as permanent measures, aimed at achieving the substantive equality of women and men in all areas and ensure the allocation of resources and the creation of incentives, targeted recruitment and the setting of time-bound goals and quotas, in areas in which women are underrepresented or disadvantaged in both the public and private sectors.
22.The Committee welcomes the steps taken by the State party to address discriminatory stereotypes, including through the revision of educational curricula in the French-speaking cantons, and to combat discriminatory gender stereotypes concerning minority and migrant women. Nevertheless, the Committee remains concerned that:
(a)Prevailing stereotypes about the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society, along with deep-rooted patriarchal attitudes, continue to impede progress in advancing gender equality;
(b)Structural barriers in the media have resulted in a decline in female media professionals in recent years, while stereotyped and sexualized images of women continue to be depicted in the media and advertisements;
(c)Stereotyped media portrayals and negative images of ethnic minority and migrant women undermine their ability to integrate into society.
23. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendations (see CEDAW/C/CHE/CO/3 , para. 26) that the State party:
(a) Strengthen its efforts to eliminate discriminatory stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society, including through awareness-raising directed at women and men;
(b) Establish an education strategy for media professionals comprising guidelines and monitoring mechanisms to eliminate discriminatory stereotypes against women and to encourage gender-neutral media coverage, especially in the run-up to elections, introduce measures to promote the equal representation of women and men in the media and amend the Federal Act on Radio and Television to explicitly refer to equal representation within the media;
(c) Introduce incentives for the media to promote positive images of ethnic minority and migrant women.
24.The Committee welcomes the adoption of legislative and other measures to combat harmful practices, including female genital mutilation, intersex genital mutilation, child marriage and forced marriage. Nevertheless, the Committee is concerned about:
(a)Girls living in the State party, often from migrant families, who have undergone or are at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation and other harmful practices;
(b)Information on harmful practices not being readily available, in particular for ethnic minority and migrant women owing to language and cultural barriers, and the lack of a national comprehensive strategy, in particular to eliminate female genital mutilation, along with limited training for relevant professionals;
(c)Insufficient support for intersex persons who have undergone involuntary and medically unnecessary disfiguring surgical procedures when they were babies and children, often with irreversible consequences, resulting in significant physical and psychological suffering;
(d)The pressure placed on parents of intersex children by medical professionals, the media and society at large, which often forces them to give their consent for so-called “medical procedures”, justified by psychosocial indications; and the fact that intersex children and adults are often unaware of the procedures to which they have been subjected, while access to legal remedies for intersex persons affected by unnecessary medical procedures is extremely limited, with the statute of limitations often expiring by the time that intersex children reach adulthood;
(e)The lack of integration of intersex persons and their families into interdisciplinary working groups and the failure to consult those directly affected by these procedures in decisions that affect their lives.
25. In the light of joint general recommendation No. 31 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women/general comment No. 18 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on harmful practices (2014), the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Systematically collect disaggregated data on harmful practices in the State party and continue to strengthen preventive and protective measures to eliminate female genital mutilation, child marriage and forced marriage;
(b) Develop awareness-raising campaigns, ensure that information is readily available to victims of female genital mutilation and ensure that relevant professionals are sufficiently trained to identify potential victims and that perpetrators are brought to justice;
(c) Ensure that, in line with recommendations by the Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics, no child is subjected to unnecessary medical or surgical treatment during infancy or childhood, adopt legislation to protect the bodily integrity, autonomy and self-determination of intersex persons and provide families with intersex children with adequate counselling and support;
(d) Adopt legal provisions, under the guidance of the courts, in order to provide redress to intersex persons affected by cases of surgical or other medical treatment without their free, prior and informed consent by or that of their parents;
(e) Educate and train medical professionals on the harmful impact of unnecessary surgical or other medical interventions for intersex children and ensure that the views of intersex persons are fully considered by the interdisciplinary working groups established to review these procedures.
Gender-based violence against women
26.The Committee commends the State party for the efforts being made to address gender-based violence, but remains concerned about:
(a)The high prevalence of gender-based violence against women, including domestic violence and stalking, as evidenced by the statistics provided by the State party (3,173 assaults against women in 2011, compared with 948 against men);
(b)The underreporting of gender-based violence to the police and the low prosecution and conviction rates, resulting in impunity for the perpetrators;
(c)The lack of a national action plan to combat violence against women and disparities between cantons in addressing the issue;
(d)The insufficient number of shelters available to provide specific support services for victims and the limited time frame during which victims can avail themselves of these services; the disparities between cantons in terms of funding and regulating shelters, and the lack of support to non-governmental organizations providing assistance to victims; and the lack of support available when women leave the shelters in terms of covering daily living expenses, childcare and so forth;
(e)The delay by the State party in ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention), signed in 2013;
(f)The negative impact of uncontrolled arms in the private possession of men in the State party on the lives of women and girls.
27. The Committee recalls its general recommendation No. 19 (1992) on violence against women and reiterates its previous recommendations that the State party:
(a) Enhance its efforts to combat all forms of gender-based violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence, paying particular attention to minority women, and introduce new legislation to prevent stalking;
(b) Increase reporting by women of incidents of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, providing capacity-building programmes for judges, prosecutors, police officers and other law enforcement officials on the strict application of criminal law provisions on violence against women, raising their awareness of the cultural background of minority and migrant women, raising awareness among the general public of the criminal nature of such acts and ensuring that all cases of violence against women are effectively investigated and perpetrators prosecuted;
(c) Expeditiously adopt a national action plan, in consultation with civil society organizations, to combat gender-based violence against women and ensure that adequate human, technical and financial resources are allocated for its implementation, monitoring and assessment;
(d) Strengthen services for women who are victims of gender-based violence, including by establishing additional shelters to ensure that adequate victim-centred services are available in all cantons, and ensure the availability of psychosocial rehabilitation and reintegration programmes;
(e) Take measures to ratify the Istanbul Convention, as a matter of priority;
(f) Develop an independent study by scientific experts, as well as representatives of women’s non-governmental organizations, to analyse the link between the uncontrolled possession of arms by men in the State party and the impact on gender-based violence against women and girls.
Trafficking and exploitation of prostitution
28.The Committee welcomes the steps taken by the State party to combat trafficking, but is concerned about:
(a)The low rates of prosecution and conviction in cases of trafficking in women and girls and the lack of available disaggregated data on victims;
(b)The lack of a unified approach across cantons to identify victims and refer them to the appropriate protection services and the inadequate human and financial resources allocated to victim protection services;
(c)The lack of a comprehensive victim protection programme that offers specific accommodation along with organized rehabilitation and reintegration measures, access to counselling, medical treatment, psychological support and redress, including compensation for victims, in particular migrant women who are not automatically entitled to temporary residence permits unless they cooperate with the police and the judicial authorities;
(d)Disparities between cantons in relation to granting residence permits, in that decisions made often depend on the type of exploitation, the cantonal authority and the individual case worker involved;
(e)The limited focus on multiple forms of exploitation such as forced labour, servitude, slavery and analogous practices;
(f)The structural violence and exclusion faced by foreign women in prostitution, in particular those in an irregular situation, and the lack of measures taken by the State party to provide exit programmes and alternative income-generating opportunities to women who wish to leave prostitution.
29. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Develop awareness-raising programmes for police officers and social workers at the cantonal level, investigate, prosecute and adequately punish all cases of trafficking in persons, especially women and girls, and improve access to data on victims of trafficking, disaggregated by sex, age and nationality;
(b) Expeditiously assess the impact of the National Action Plan against Trafficking in Persons and adopt a new plan with a gender focus, ensuring that measures are implemented uniformly across all cantons;
(c) Strengthen measures to identify and provide support to women at risk of trafficking, in particular migrant women and unaccompanied girls; ensure adequate access to health care and counselling services; strengthen the human, technical and financial resources of non-governmental organizations that offer specialized victim protection services; and develop targeted training for social workers dealing with victims of trafficking;
(d) Grant residence permits to enable all victims of trafficking to avail themselves of protective and rehabilitation measures, irrespective of their willingness or unwillingness to cooperate with the police, and ensure that the authorities adopt a victim-centred approach when granting the recovery and reflection period;
(e) Prevent and combat other exploitative practices assimilated to trafficking, in particular forced labour and servitude, and provide training for labour inspectors and other relevant professionals in this regard;
(f) Regularly review the situation of foreign women who are engaged in prostitution, or who are affected by the State party’s decision to abolish the status of “cabaret dancer”, in order to protect them, and strengthen the assistance provided to women and girls who wish to leave prostitution, including by providing exit programmes and alternative income-generating opportunities.
Participation in political and public life
30.The Committee notes the efforts undertaken by the State party to advance the participation of women in political and public life, but remains concerned that:
(a)Women continue to be significantly underrepresented in the Council of States and the National Council, with the overall proportion of women in the Government continuing to be low following the most recent federal elections, in October 2015;
(b)Structural barriers and gender bias with regard to the realization of women’s engagement in political and public life continue to exclude women from decision-making positions in both elected and appointed positions in public office, political parties, the judiciary, academic institutions and public broadcasting corporations;
(c)The application of statutory quotas for the representation of women in organs of the legislative, executive and judicial branches has been rejected by the Federal Court under the existing legal framework.
31. The Committee reiterates it previous recommendations (see CEDAW/C/CHE/CO/3 , para. 34) and calls upon the State party:
(a) To strengthen its efforts to increase the number of women in elected decision-making bodies at the federal and cantonal levels, as well as in appointed positions at the local level, and to achieve the equal representation of women and men in political and public life;
(b) To intensify awareness-raising campaigns for politicians, journalists, teachers and the general public to enhance the understanding that the full, equal, free and democratic participation of women on an equal basis with men in political and public life is a requirement for the full implementation of women’s human rights, and to continue its efforts to encourage the media to ensure that female and male candidates and elected representatives receive equal visibility in the media, especially during an election period;
(c) To review the decision by the Federal Court and adopt proactive measures, including temporary special measures in accordance with article 4 (1) of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25 (2004), to address the structural obstacles to the achievement of substantive equality of women and men in political and public life.
Human rights defenders
32.The Committee is concerned that women human rights defenders abroad are not sufficiently supported, owing to the lack of awareness by diplomatic staff of the Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders issued by the State party in 2013.
33. The Committee recommends that the State party ensure the full implementation of the Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and ensure that foreign policy actors are fully aware of the Guidelines and are adequately trained to address situations involving women human rights defenders.
34.The Committee welcomes the measures taken by the State party to address discriminatory stereotypes in education, in particular at the tertiary level, but remains concerned that:
(a)Gender-stereotyped educational materials in schools and universities have an impact on traditional career choices made by women and girls and, while gender-sensitive teaching materials have been developed in a number of cantons, this practice has not been uniformly applied throughout the State party;
(b)Women continue to be drawn to traditionally female-dominated fields of study and career paths and are underrepresented in vocational training and in certain fields of higher education, such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as evidenced in the annex to the State party’s report, which demonstrates that there has been little progress in this regard between 1990 and 2010 (less than 10 per cent);
(c)Women continue to be underrepresented in decision-making and senior management positions at all levels of the education system. Similarly, the underrepresentation of professors and rectors at the senior level leaves young girls without role models in this area.
35. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Encourage further diversification of the educational choices of girls and boys, take steps to revise educational materials at the cantonal level and ensure that gender-sensitive teaching materials are available across all cantons and communities, and include a module on gender stereotypes in education within national teacher training programmes;
(b) Strengthen strategies to address discriminatory stereotypes and structural barriers that may deter girls from progressing beyond secondary education and enrolling in traditionally male-dominated fields of study, such as mathematics, information technology and science;
(c) Monitor the career development of women in the education system to ensure equal access and prevent hidden or indirect discrimination faced by women, and develop mentoring programmes for female professors and rectors to act as role models for young girls.
36.The Committee notes as positive the measures taken by the State party to reconcile family and work life, but notes with concern:
(a)That the prevailing gender wage gap in both the public and private sectors continues to have a negative impact on women’s career development and pension benefits, while the lack of effective implementation of legislation on the principle of equal pay for equal work and work of equal value further hinders progress in this regard;
(b)The persistence of horizontal and vertical occupational segregation; the concentration of women in the lower-paid service sectors and in temporary and part-time work, owing to their traditional role as caregivers for children; women’s underrepresentation in managerial positions in companies and the lack of part-time opportunities in high-level positions; and the significant discrimination against part-time employees in relation to invalidity insurance;
(c)The continued lack of affordable childcare facilities and the lack of family-friendly working models and paternity leave;
(d)The potentially negative impact that raising the retirement age for women to 65 years may have on women’s pension levels, in particular for women involved in unpaid care work;
(e)The increase in cases of discriminatory attitudes in the workplace, especially in male-dominated sectors and at the senior management level, and the lack of effective measures to deal with such harassment;
(f)The limited access by migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women, as well as women with disabilities, to the formal labour market.
37. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Strengthen efforts to eliminate the gender wage gap and ensure equal opportunities for women and men in the labour market, including through the use of temporary special measures, with time-bound targets, in accordance with article 4 (1) of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25 (2004);
(b) Adopt effective measures, including skills training and incentives for women to work in non-traditional professions, to eliminate occupational segregation, both horizontal and vertical, in the public and private sectors, and adopt temporary special measures, in the form of statutory quotas, to enhance the representation of women in managerial positions in companies and encourage companies to create part-time opportunities in high-level positions and to harmonize discriminatory provisions in labour law and social law, and ensure that invalidity insurance is available for part-time workers;
(c) Create more opportunities for women to gain access to full-time employment, including by adopting a rights-based national childcare framework in order to provide sufficient and adequate childcare facilities, and establish a legal framework to ensure that paid paternity leave is available without having an impact on the right of mothers to take maternity leave;
(d) Ensure that the situation of women who have been involved in unpaid care work is taken into consideration without discrimination when drafting the pension scheme reform for 2020;
(e) Ensure that victims of discriminatory harassment in the workplace have access to effective mechanisms and remedies and encourage employers to conduct regular reviews of company culture to prevent such harassment;
(f) Take into account the needs of disadvantaged groups of women, especially migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women, as well as women with disabilities, and introduce targeted measures to create further employment opportunities for these women.
38.The Committee welcomes the measures adopted by the State party to address disparities in terms of access to health services between cantons and, in particular, between Swiss nationals and migrants. Nevertheless, the Committee remains concerned about:
(a)The language barriers and lack of awareness often preventing migrant women from accessing health-care facilities, including sexual and reproductive health services;
(b)Disparities in the teaching of age-appropriate sexual education across cantons and the resulting risk of teenage pregnancy;
(c)Disparities in the availability of cantonal support services and the lack of inclusion of lesbian, bisexual and intersex persons in health surveys and registers;
(d)The persistence of gender reassignment treatment targeting transgender persons, including involuntary medical treatment, such as hormonal or surgical sterilization, and the costs associated with such treatment;
(e)The unavailability of disaggregated information and data on cases of HIV/AIDS in the State party, and the lack of measures to limit the risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infections for women in prostitution.
39. In line with its general recommendation No. 24 (1999) on women and health, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure that medical professionals are aware of the cultural and linguistic barriers that migrant women face when accessing health care, and ensure the availability of female medical staff if requested; and tak e steps to introduce awareness- raising campaigns, in relevant languages, among migrant communities on how to gain access to health-care services, including sexual and reproductive health services;
(b) Ensure that age-appropriate sexual education is included in curricula in all cantons and that training is provided to teachers;
(c) Include reference to, and documentation on, lesbian, bisexual. transgender and intersex persons in national health surveys and registers;
(d) Review the decisions taken by civil courts requiring transgender persons to undergo surgical and/or hormonal treatment before legal gender recognition can be granted, and ensure that the costs for such interventions are reimbursed;
(e) Take steps to collect data on cases of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections and ensure that age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health services and treatment, including confidential services, are accessible to all women and girls living with HIV/AIDS.
Economic empowerment of women
40.The Committee welcomes the publication of a report by the Federal Council in 2016 on illicit financial flows, but is concerned about:
(a)The lack of efficient and transparent regulations and mechanisms for evaluating the impact of budget shortfalls on women, in particular in developing countries;
(b)The lack of impact assessments explicitly taking into account women’s human rights before the negotiation of international trade and investment agreements;
(c)The State party’s financial secrecy policies and rules on corporate reporting and taxation having a potentially negative impact on the ability of other States, in particular those already short of revenue, to mobilize the maximum available resources for the fulfilment of women’s rights.
41. In line with its general recommendation No. 28 on the core obligations of States parties under article 2 of the Convention, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Undertake independent, participatory and periodic impact assessments of the extraterritorial effects of its financial secrecy and corporate tax policies on women’s rights and substantive equality, ensuring that such assessments are conducted impartially, with public disclosure of the methodology and findings;
(b) Ensure that the trade and investment agreements negotiated by the State party recognize the primacy of its obligations under the Convention and explicitly consider their impact on women’s rights;
(c) Strengthen its legislation governing the conduct of corporations registered or domiciled in the State party in relation to their activities abroad.
Poverty and social welfare
42.The Committee welcomes the overall reduction in household poverty in the State party, in line with the recommendations made by the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Social Affairs in 2013, but is concerned that:
(a)Women, in particular single mothers, older women, divorced rural women, migrant women, unemployed women and women involved in unpaid care work, are disproportionately affected by poverty;
(b)The rules regarding maintenance payments vary significantly by canton, including when a parent neglects his or her obligations to provide child maintenance, and, in some cases, the parent beneficiary may later be requested to pay maintenance payments back;
(c)Maintenance payments are taxed as income, ultimately increasing the single parent’s tax burden and overstretching already limited financial resources;
(d)The Federal Council rejected the introduction of minimum maintenance payments for children after the divorce of their parents.
43. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Adopt a national poverty reduction strategy with a focus on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of women and integrating a human rights- and gender-based approach;
(b) Adopt, and implement in all cantons, the recommendations made by the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Social Affairs in 2013 on how to design a system of child maintenance and eliminate the obligation placed on the parent beneficiary to pay back maintenance payments;
(c) Introduce a means-tested child allowance, as proposed by the Federal Council, as a matter of priority;
(d) Introduce minimum maintenance payments for children after their parents separate or divorce.
44.The Committee notes the information provided by the State party in relation to rural women, but remains concerned that female farmers are often left in a vulnerable situation following divorce and unable to recover any personal assets or have access to unemployment insurance benefits. The Committee is also concerned that laws governing the inheritance of property often prevent widows from inheriting farms in the event of their husband’s death. The Committee is further concerned at the underrepresentation of women in farmers’ unions and other policy, political and legislative bodies governing the rights of farmers.
45. The Committee recommends that the State party give full attention to the economic empowerment of rural women, in particular women farmers, and ensure their access to and control over land, as well as their access to credit facilities and training opportunities. It also recommends that steps be taken to raise awareness among rural women about their rights in the event of separation or divorce.
Disadvantaged groups of women
Migrant and minority women
46.The Committee notes the efforts of the State party to facilitate the integration of migrants, especially Muslim women, as well as ethnic minority women, including Roma and related groups, Traveller women and undocumented women. Nevertheless, it notes with concern that:
(a)Migrant women and minority women continue to be at risk of intersecting forms of discrimination in political life, education, employment and health care;
(b)There is underreporting of domestic violence by many migrant women whose residence permits depend on their being married to their violent husbands, and that the significantly high threshold of “severity” and “systematic violence” prevails as the standard of proof before the courts;
(c)Migrant women who have been recognized as victims of domestic violence have been deported only on account of their lack of financial independence.
47. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Take effective measures to eliminate discrimination against migrant women and minority women, both in society at large and within their communities, by developing awareness-raising campaigns and engaging with the media to avoid negative stereotypes;
(b) Introduce measures to promote migrant women’s access to education, employment and professional training, social services and health care, as well as to familiarize them with their rights under the Convention and the legal remedies available to claim them;
(c) Review the legal framework concerning the burden and standard of proof in cases of domestic violence committed against migrant women;
(d) Grant temporary residence permits to migrant women who have been recognized as victims of domestic violence but are at risk of being deported owing to their lack of financial independence.
Marriage and family relations
48.The Committee is concerned that its previous recommendations to better redress gender disparities and economic disparities (“shortfalls”) upon divorce have not been followed, and that the amended Child Maintenance Act has not introduced a federal scheme of deficit-sharing and a minimal contribution to child maintenance, and, as a result, child maintenance is determined only to the extent that the person duty-bound to pay such maintenance is financially able to pay. It is also concerned that the default rule of joint parental authority and preference for shared custody may lead to a reduction in the number of child maintenance orders, with no mechanism to ensure that shared custody is indeed practised, and reflects the reality of time and cost allocation between parents. The Committee is further concerned at the lack of information on the impact of the current pension system on divorced low-income couples, especially in relation to the potential risk that they face of falling into poverty in old age.
49. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Take the measures necessary to redress gender disparities and economic disparities (“shortfalls”) upon divorce;
(b) Amend the Child Maintenance Act to introduce a federal scheme of income deficit and ensure that the shortfall in income is equally distributed between parents and that a minimal contribution to child maintenance is applied;
(c) Establish a monitoring mechanism to ensure that shared custody is practised and that child maintenance orders reflect the reality in relation to the time and cost allocation between parents;
(d) Develop a study, to be conducted by scientific experts and relevant women’s non-governmental organizations, to analyse the impact of the current pension system on low-income couples in relation to their falling into poverty.
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
50. The Committee calls upon the State party to use the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in its efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention.
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
51. The Committee calls for the realization of substantive gender equality, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention, throughout the process of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
52. The Committee requests the State party to ensure the timely dissemination of the present concluding observations, in the official languages of the State party, to the relevant State institutions at all levels (federal and cantonal), in particular to the Federal Council, the ministries, the Federal Assembly and the judiciary, to enable their full implementation.
Ratification of other treaties
53. The Committee notes that the adherence of the State party to the nine major international human rights instruments would enhance the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms in all aspects of life. The Committee therefore encourages the State party to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, to which it is not yet a party.
Follow-up to the concluding observations
54. The Committee requests the State party to provide, within two years, written information on the steps taken to implement the recommendations contained in paragraphs 19 (b) and (c), 27 (c) and 49 (d) above.
Preparation of the next report
55. The Committee invites the State party to submit its sixth periodic report in November 2020. In case of delay, the report should cover the entire period up to the time of its submission.
56. The Committee requests the State party to follow the harmonized guidelines on reporting under the international human rights treaties, including guidelines on a common core document and treaty-specific documents (see HRI/GEN/2/Rev.6 , chap. I).