Update: 27.04.2011

Too unstable legal position for victims of domestic violence

The prevailing legal situation in Switzerland is not at all satisfying for foreign wives with violent husbands. In many cases they lose their right of residence should they decide to leave their ruthless and brutal husbands. Many experts believe that therefore a great number among them prefer to continue to endure their violent partners to avoid risking a deportation. A new report by the ODAE - a French-speaking Swiss supervisory organisation for asylum and foreigners law issues – proofs this suspicion by quoting individual cases.

ODAE now calls for a better protection for victims of domestic violence by the authorities. In its view, there is a need to change current practices urgently and a call for amendments to the legislation; every woman who can prove that she is a victim of domestic violence should get a residence permit with no further conditions attached.

Restrictive Swiss practice

The new Asylum Act essentially provides better possibilities to protect victims of domestic violence. According to the legislator’s plans, the foreign women should be allowed to stay in Switzerland, should their social reintegration in their country of origin be in danger (cf. Asylum Act art. 50).

Individual practical cases go to show that the authorities not only request proof for violence incurred (medical reports) in general, but for a certain (increased) level of violence. Responsible public officials generally assess the threatened reintegration in the country of origin. What is more, authorities demand without any legal basis that the affected foreign wives can prove that they have pushed their integration into Swiss society.

Need for more security for victims

Several UN Committees that have recently focused on Switzerland criticised this jurisdiction, in 2009 CEDAW and the Human Rights Committee, and in 2010 the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, all calling for a change in Swiss policies in order to further the protection and the equality of women of all origins within the country’s border. Following this criticism the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland eased its jurisdiction slightly, which in turn led to a slight relaxation of government authorities’ practices. But the situation still remains problematic, since the women are still not granted a guarantee that they do not have to leave Switzerland immediately after their divorce.

A report in German on the authorities’ practices dealing with migrants who have suffered from domestic violence is at present being compiled by the ODAE’s German equivalent. It will be published in early June 2011 and will focus on some other issues, but the demands addressed to the authorities will be very similar to the ones by ODAE.


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