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Other votes of 18 may 2014

Enhanced status for general practitioners

There has been a shortage of general practitioners in Switzerland for some time. Long working hours, a high administrative workload and emergency duty with nightshifts – and all for a relatively low salary – are making a career as a family doctor increasingly unattractive. The Swiss Association of General Practitioners therefore launched the “Yes to family practitioners” popular initiative in 2010 which was signed by around 200,000 Swiss citizens. A counterproposal emerged during the parliamentary debate that will now be presented to the Swiss people and which is also deemed satisfactory by those behind the initiative: federal government and the cantons should ensure “sufficient high-quality basic medical provision that is accessible to everyone” and promote family doctors because they “recognise that they are a key element of this basic provision”. The general practitioners believe this meets the main objectives of their initiative. Their longstanding battle for improved status within the healthcare system will be crowned with success if the Swiss people approve the proposal on 18 May.

The Association of General Practitioners also lauded the contribution of Alain Berset, the Federal Councillor responsible. “The representatives of the initiative committee found the Minister of Health to be a fair and credible partner,” it said in a press release. This is partly because Berset did not leave the matter at a constitutional article but at the same time also drew up a master plan for family medicine involving the various players. (JM)

No place for paedophiles in the classroom

Children must be protected from sexual assault. Paedophiles should not therefore be permitted to work with children. This is a commonly held view in Switzerland. Opinions are nevertheless divided over the popular initiative “Paedophiles should no longer be permitted to work with children”. The initiative launched by Marche Blanche, an organisation from French-speaking Switzerland, which will be put to the vote on 18 May 2014, calls for an automatic and absolute career ban to be enshrined in the federal constitution: anyone convicted of paedophilia should be prohibited from working with children for life. Experts in criminal law are not opposing the actual cause but rather the radical solution proposed. They argue that the imposition of a lifelong penalty presupposes a serious offence. This however does not apply in all cases. A sexual relationship between a 19-year-old boy and his 15-year-old girlfriend is hardly a serious criminal offence, they say. Because the automatic penalty, irrespective of the severity of the offence, being called for by the initiative infringes upon the principle of proportionality and conflicts with the constitution and international law, Parliament decided in 2013 that sex offenders would be dealt with more severely in future irrespective of the outcome of the referendum. The sentences for paedophile offenders are being increased. In addition to exclusion and no-contact orders, employment bans may also be imposed in the case of serious offences but with greater leeway for the courts. Whether the electorate will accept these tougher measures as an indirect counterproposal to the initiative remains to be seen. (mul)