eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà


  • August 2017 : Crucifixes in hospitals under debate

In August 2017, the presence of crucifixes in the rooms of a Valais hospital (the Valais is one of the twenty-four cantons in Switzerland) revived the issue of religious signs, in hospitals in particular and in the public domain in general.

A committed member of the Free Thinkers of French-Speaking Switzerland, which initiated the initiative for a secular Valais in 2015 (eventually withdrawn), was hospitalised at the Valais Hospital, where he took offence at finding a crucifix in his room. Management replied that it did not wish to “enter into the debate on the religious question” but that the object could be removed at the patient’s request.

At the national level, it should be noted that Valais is one of the only cantons, along with Lucerne, to hang crucifixes in the patient’s rooms. Conversely, cantons such as Freiburg, Jura and Geneva have abolished them as religious signs from the hospital universe. In Geneva, for example, this measure was taken more than twenty years ago. For more details on this controversy.

For more details on this controversy, see the article in Le Nouvelliste.

  • June 2017 : Report on religious symbols in public buildings

On 9 June 2017, the Federal Council published a report on the wearing and presence of religious symbols in public buildings. This report had been requested by Mr. Aeschi in September 2013 in order to present the need to legislate on the issue of the presence of crucifixes and other religious symbols as well as on the wearing of religious symbols of various sizes in public buildings.

The report paints a picture of the legal situation and daily practice of displaying and wearing religious symbols in public buildings. The Federal Office of Justice (OFJ), which was commissioned to produce the report, mandated several bodies to do so : the Institute of Federalism of the University of Fribourg, the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law (ISDC) and the Swiss Centre of Expertise on Human Rights (CSDH).

Two main findings of this survey are worthy of note :

- Legislation concerning the display and wearing of religious signs and symbols in public buildings does not exist under federal law, with the exception of Article 21 para. 1 and C of the Federal Personnel Act. To date, these matters fall within the jurisdiction of the Federal Court.
- Between 2001 and 2015, political statements dealt mainly with crucifixes/crosses, Muslim places of prayer/cemeteries and the wearing of the Muslim veil. These political statements have in few cases led the legislator to take action.
- Religious symbols can be found in more than half of public buildings and are particularly numerous in hospitals.

Further results of empirical studies (on-line survey, interviews with staff, researchers and religious representatives) as well as a comparative study with European countries are available in the report.

  • June 2017 : Declaration of Halal meat

The National Council accepted by an overwhelming majority a motion requiring halal meat to be declared as such to customers, whether in supermarkets or in restaurants.

In Switzerland, Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter is prohibited. It is therefore impossible to produce halal or kosher meat. However, the law allows the import of such meat. Current legislation requires a processing declaration only at the first stage of sale (wholesale trade), in contrast to retail sale and restaurants. The parliamentary initiative, launched by Yannick Buttet (Christian Democratic Party, centre), requests a mandatory declaration at all stages of sale.

An additional requirement is that relating to the cost of tendering (selection of supplier). This is because halal meat is often cheaper than meat obtained by non-ritual slaughter, the initiator believes that other companies are penalised.

Representatives of the Left, as well as part of the PLR (Radical Liberal Party) and the PVL (Liberal Greens Party) consider this initiative problematic due to its focus on a specifically Muslim practice. In addition, Martina Munz (Socialist Party) believes that the quantity of halal meat is low and more affordable due to the quality of certain pieces.

The Commission of the Council of State opposed this parliamentary initiative by 8 votes to 3. If the plenum (all parliamentarians of the chamber concerned) does so, the item will be discarded.

Source : Le Temps.

  • May 2017 : Rejection of the ban on head coverings in the canton of Glaris

On 6 May 2017, the Landsgemeinde (“Cantonal Assembly”) of the canton of Glaris, a direct democracy institution found in two cantons in Switzerland, rejected the citizens’ initiative to ban head coverings and, implicitly, the wearing of a full veil in public space. The Landsgemeinde, composed of citizens of the municipality, rejected this request for a ban by a two-thirds vote.

The initiative was spearheaded by politician Roland Hämmerli of the right-wing party UDC (Union Démocratique du Centre). His main arguments revolved around security, targeting “veiled" women”, “agents of chaos” and “hooligans”.

According to opponents of the initiative, dress requirements should not be found in the Constitution. They also intended to prevent the Landsgemeinde from serving the “interests of far-right circles”. The Government and the Cantonal Parliament also rejected the initiative.

Until this date, only the canton of Ticino has such a legal provision (see the 2014 debate)

Source : RTS.

  • May 2017 : Migration and the “Juju” tradition

Swiss social services are faced with ever more frequent cases of Nigerian migrant women, most involved in prostitution networks, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or convinced that they are living under the threat of witch doctors. Understanding the “Juju” tradition is a first step towards alleviating the suffering of these migrants.

To keep these women under their control and extort large sums of money from them, the criminal networks that exploit these Nigerians rely not only on physical threats but also the exploitation of their religious beliefs. Before being sent to Europe, these women are brought to a wizard who, according to the “Juju” tradition, has the power to kill them or make them crazy from a distance thanks to the powers of the god Eshu. Socialised in societies steeped in the world of magic and its beliefs, these women experience anxieties so great that they develop serious psychological disorders.

Maria Rio Benito, a psychiatrist at the association for migrants’ aid, Appartenances, in Lausanne, explains that symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are commonplace. According to her, the “Juju” phenomenon needs to be understood and treated within the context of the social precariousness of victims. Cases are multiplying due to the increase in migratory flows from Nigeria.

Source : Le Temps.

D 26 septembre 2017    AAnaïd Lindemann

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