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Swiss people just voted in favour of a new law protecting the LGBTQ+ community. Didier Bonny, an activist and politician, spoke to us about it…

Last February, I had the honour to speak with the Swiss Co-President of the Green Party of Geneva, and of the Romand Federation of LGBT Associations, Didier Bonny, about the endorsement of a new proposed law to finally make it illegal in Switzerland to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.

The act was originally approved by the Swiss parliament in 2018. Although it was validated, the new law was met with some opposition from small ultra-conservative religious groups, which collected enough signatures to force nationwide voting.

On Sunday 9th February, 63.1% of Swiss voters came out in favour of the new proposed law, officially changing the fate of future LGBTQ+ generations to come, in the country.

Didier Bonny at last year’s Pride in Geneva, Switzerland

Didier, who has been an activist for the Swiss LGBTQ+ community for more than two decades in the French-speaking Canton of Geneva, has played a fundamental role in influencing the community to come together as a unified force to claim its rights.

Up until this year, Switzerland was one of the few European countries which did not hold any statistical evidence for homophobic and transphobic discriminations. As a result, tracking down any form of homophobia was a challenging task, as no research could be called upon.

This new law will finally permit such statistics to be gathered, making it significantly easier to determine which groups are being targeted and to be able to hold homophobic and transphobic people accountable for their hateful actions.

Risking yourself to changing things for the better.

Although the process started in earnestover 10 years ago, the anti-discriminating law will become effective as of 1st July this year.

Didier explains: “At the time I was a deputy in Geneva. Along with my other deputy colleagues, we filed a proposition to the Swiss federal parliament in 2008 to change the Penal Code. However, since it would have changed the Swiss Constitution, it took five years before even making it to the Council of Geneva.”

In 2013, Didier’s proposition was met with another similar proposal which didn’t require a constitutional change. As a result, Didier’s original proposal was put aside, before being picked up again last year.

Didier, who is openly gay, has fought hard for the new law to be established.

“If you want things to move forward, you need to be willing to risk being judged. When you expose yourself, you aren’t always met with pleasant people, but it’s worth it because you are also met with a lot of positivity, and this new victory is the proof of it,” he says.

Voting posters for the new law Via DW

Didier adds: “For me, equality for all is an absolute necessity. It is simply unthinkable to live in a society where different categories of people exist.”

As the campaign gained support from most of the Swiss population, Didier and his associates were successful in raising the necessary funds. “All the Cantons were well organised, but the French-speaking Romand Cantons were especially efficient. And we won!”

Winning slowly but surely.

Indeed, 74% of the French-speaking part of Switzerland came out in favour of the new law. Some argued that the German-speaking part of Switzerland was more concerned about keeping their right to freedom of expression.

“There are two types of “no-voters”: the obvious homophobic “no”, which comprises 15 to 20% of the Swiss population, and the “no” which comes from people concerned about defending their freedom of speech,” Didier explains.

It is hard to imagine someone defending the right to claim that all “fa*s* should “burn in hell”, which was, up until now, completely legal statement to say in Switzerland.

Freedom of speech or harmful discrimination?

“Insults aren’t just words. We know for fact that such verbal violence can have an enormous impact on people, especially on younger ones. This type of behaviour could push someone to suicide,” Didier says.

As Didier looks forward to the Swiss National Council speaking on marriage equality this year, he concludes our interview: “We have to remember that this law will not make homophobia disappear tomorrow.”

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Andréa Oldereide

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