The Federal Council plans concrete measures for promoting gender equality in its 2015–2019 Legislature Planning and 2016–2019 Sustainable Development Strategy. Gender equality and the rights of women and girls are priority topics on the Swiss domestic and foreign policy agenda over the coming years. The remit of the Federal Office for Gender Equality FOGE is based on legislation prohibiting discrimination and upholding equality between the sexes.
In its activities, the FOGE strives to implement equality before the law as well as equality in practice. Its activities are divided into three main areas: labour, domestic violence and law. Wherever possible, the FOGE seeks to cooperate with other federal offices, cantonal conferences and committees, specialist and umbrella organisations, professional organisations, employers’ organisations and non-governmental organisations.
A pilot project run by the FOGE within the Federal Department of Home Affairs FDHA aims to ensure that the sexes are equally represented among speakers at events.
Gender equality between the sexes has essentially been achieved at a legal level in Switzerland. In reality, however, discrimination still exists, in particular because of continued gender stereotyping in education and in the workplace, and because of the traditional assignment of roles in the family and in society. According to one FOGE study, in court pay, pregnancy and maternity are the most frequently invoked reasons for discrimination. And a national barometer published at the end of 2018 by the Swiss Conference of Gender Equality Delegates showed that the vast majority of the working population in Switzerland does not believe that equality between men and women has been achieved.
In order to promote the implementation of the Gender Equality Act, the FOGE informs organisations, professional circles and the wider public on specific issues of the law, such as sexual harassment. When invited to do so, it gives statements on cases brought before the Federal Supreme Court under the Gender Equality Act.
In late 2018, Parliament agreed to revise the Gender Equality Act. This will now require employers with at least 100 employees to regularly conduct an equal pay analysis, which must then be assessed by an external agency. The FOGE will play a leading role in drafting and implementing the ordinance to the Act.
In conjunction with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA, the International Organisation of la Francophonie and the University of Geneva, in autumn 2019 the FOGE is organising an event to launch the French-language commentary on the UN Women’s Rights Convention (CEDAW). On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, which was adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, in 2019 the FOGE is preparing Switzerland’s national report for the UN. This report highlights the progress made in gender equality and the challenges still faced.
The FOGE represents Switzerland in various international bodies, such as the steering committee of the Equal Pay International Coalition and the Council of Europe’s Gender Equality Commission. It also participates in the sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which take place in New York each March.
Gender equality at work is a key factor in achieving gender equality in all areas of our lives. Equal pay will once again be one of the FOGE’s main focuses in 2019. Swiss Federal Statistical Office figures show that in 2016 women earned on average CHF 1,455 less than men for the same number of hours worked. Reasons can be provided for 56% of this difference in pay, while 44% cannot be explained by objective factors. This injustice is felt by the whole of society: the loss of income puts household budgets under strain, and women and their families have smaller pensions.
One of the FOGE’s main tasks is oversight of businesses involved in public procurement. In 2019, 30 new controls will be introduced in companies that execute public contracts. The Logib self-testing tool enables all companies with at least 50 employees to check their wage practices. The FOGE will again offer workshops on Logib to companies and interested persons in 2019. A self-testing tool developed by the FOGE for companies with fewer than 50 employees is currently being piloted. The results will be available in the course of the year.
The public sector plays an exemplary role in promoting wage equality. The Charter for Equal Pay in the Public Sector , launched by Federal Councillor Alain Berset in 2016, has already been signed by most cantons and all major cities. The FOGE offers support to the cantons and communes in this regard. In autumn 2019, it is organising a fourth meeting on the funding of equal pay in the public sector on behalf of the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA).
The FOGE also awards financial support each year on the basis of the Gender Equality Act with the aim of promoting gender equality in actual employment situations.
There can only be equality in a relationship if it is a non-violent one. Domestic violence is a widespread problem in Switzerland. In 2017, 17,024 domestic violence offences were registered with the police. Between 2009 and 2016, there was an average of 25 deaths and 50 victims of attempted murder every year. Most murder victims are women, and the majority of murderers are men.
At the beginning of April 2018, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Suppressing of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) entered into force in Switzerland. The FOGE acts as the national coordinating body for the implementation of this Convention and reports regularly to the Council of Europe on progress in Switzerland. It chairs the Confederation’s interdepartmental working group and the joint federal and cantonal committee on the implementation of the Istanbul Convention.
An ordinance on measures to prevent violent crimes against women and domestic violence is due to be drawn up and presented to the Federal Council in 2019 . A study on the statistical basis available in Switzerland on violence against women and domestic violence will be published, along with two legal reports addressing a possible federal law on protection against violence and the legal options available in stalking cases.