In Switzerland, the rights of individuals have traditionally had a high priority. At the same time, privacy is regarded as a fundamental asset. There is a strong contrast between cities and the countryside in public discourse about LGBT rights in Switzerland. Although some personal attitudes may change slower than the laws, the general public is tolerant of LGBT people and thus bias motivated violence or discrimination is all but unheard of. There is a vibrant LGBT community with a wide range of gay and lesbian subculture in the two main cities of Zurich and Geneva, as well as some on offer in the neighbourhood centres of Basel, Bern, Lucerne, Lausanne, and St. Gallen. Outside of these centres, LGBT people are barely noticed/noticeable in public.
Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalised in 1942. The higher age of consent for same-sex sexual activity (20 years instead of 16 for heterosexual sexual activity) was repealed by the criminal law reform of 1992. In a national referendum on 17 May 1992, 73% of the voters accepted the reform of Swiss Federal legislation on sexual offences, including the elimination of all discrimination against homosexuality from the Penal Code. Article 187 of the Criminal Code states that the general age of consent for sexual activity in Switzerland is 16 years. If one partner is less than 16 years old but the age difference is less than three years, then an exception can be made.
Since 1999, governmental discrimination based on sexual orientation has been constitutionally prohibited. Article 8 of the Constitution of the Swiss Confederation prohibits discrimination on the basis of way of life. Homosexuality is no longer mentioned in the Military Criminal Code, so LGBT people are allowed to serve in the army.
In Switzerland, politicians of all levels, up to the Federal Council, commit themselves time and again, regardless of their way of life, to the equal rights of LGBT people.
Claude Janiak, Councillor and former National President, is involved in AIDS work, Network, and the Pink Cross.