Switzerland voted on 9 February 2020 to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. The country’s referendum-based direct democracy takes many divisive issues to the populace if enough people demand it. This referendum decided on legislation that specifically outlawed hate speech and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation with jail terms of up to three years. The criminal code currently covers discrimination based on race, ethnicity and religion.
  1. About 62% of voters favored the legislation, with most parties backing the amendment to protect the gay, lesbian and bisexual community. However, the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) — the strongest party in parliament — opposed the law.
  2. The SVP argued that migrants have imported homophobic views and that social dialogue and expulsion of foreign perpetrators would be more effective.
  3. The change was first passed by Swiss parliament in 2018, but it was forced to a referendum after critics said it would stifle free speech.
What does the law cover?
  1. It outlaws: Publicly denigrating or discriminating against someone for being gay.
  2. Inciting hatred against a gay person in text, speech, images or gestures.
  3. Operators of restaurants, cinemas and public facilities such as swimming pools discriminating based on sexual orientation.
  4. It does not outlaw: Homophobic comments made in a family setting or among friends.
  5. Discrimination based on gender identity including transgender people.
  6. Public debate on discrimination.
  7. Jokes about gay people.