Women and Justice: Court: Supreme Federal Court

Domestic Case Law

B. v. A., BGE 126 IV 124 Supreme Federal Court (2000)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Sexual violence and rape

A. met B. in St. Gallen in 1993. A. had to leave Switzerland at the end of 1995. They married in April 1996 in Ghana. In August 1996, A. was able to return to Switzerland. After his return, the relationship gradually became more oppressive and menacing toward B., for example, by pressuring B. for sexual intercourse.  B. gave in to his demands when she could no longer stand the intimidation. B. separated from A. on March, 28, 1998, and on July 20, 1998, A. was prosecuted for threatening, assaulting, and coercing B. The district and appellate courts in the Canton of St. Gallen sentenced A. to prison and condemned him to heavy penalties, including both imprisonment and damages. A. appealed to the Federal Supreme Court, under the claim that he was the husband of B. and not a rapist who lacked entitlement to approach B. The Supreme Federal Court rejected A.’s appeal.

Public Prosecutor of Zurich Canton v. X., BGE 129 IV 81 Supreme Federal Court (2002)

Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

The defendant, X., procured women for the purpose of prostitution from a recruiter operating in Thailand.  She deliberately chose women from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds because of their greater vulnerability and their perceived inability to resist demands made by X. On February 14, 2000, the Zurich District Court convicted X on charges relating to the promotion of prostitution of others under Article 195(3) of the Penal Code (Switzerland), but found the defendant not guilty in relation to trafficking in persons, assault, and other prostitution related offenses.  Her conviction resulted in a sentence of two-and-a-half years of imprisonment and a fine of CHF 10,000. On January 24, 2001, the Zurich Court of Appeal, found X. guilty of multiple counts of trafficking in human beings (under Article 196 of the Criminal Code), promotion of prostitution (under Article 195(3) and (4) of the Criminal Code), and for offenses relating to bribery (Articles 288a and 305). X.’s prison sentence was increased to four and a half (4.5) years and the fine of CHF 10,000 was affirmed. X. appealed to the Supreme Federal Court for the annulment of the decision made by the Zurich Court of Appeal. The Supreme Federal Court confirmed the decision of the Zurich Court of Appeal, adding that any consent that may have been given by any of the trafficked women after they had been trafficked and were present in Switzerland would have been irrelevant.

Public Prosecutor of Canton Ticino v. A.A., 6S. 292/2004 Supreme Federal Court (2004)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Sexual violence and rape

A.A. and B.A., while estranged spouses but not having applied for legal separation, were living in the same house in two separate apartments, with A.A. paying for the rental of both units. The decision to live in the same house was accepted by B.A., as it allowed them to continue helping each other with everyday tasks and to oversee the children’s education together. On June 7, 2003, B.A. alleged that the two engaged in intercourse without B.A.’s consent. On May 24, 2004, the Canton Ticino Public Prosecutor indicted A.A. before the Court of Riviera for alleged sexual violence against his wife, B.A. On July 2, 2004, the Canton Ticino Court of Appeal dismissed the indictment of the Public Prosecutor, as B.A. had withdrawn the allegation of sexual violence committed against her by her husband. The Public Prosecutor appealed the decision before the Supreme Federal Court. Under Swiss law, sexual violence against a spouse can only be prosecuted where the victim has made allegations. The Supreme Federal Court, on the basis of the evidence collected in the course of the proceeding, and as argued by the Public Prosecutor, stated that the fact that the spouses were living in two separate apartments was not material, as they were nevertheless maintaining a “communion of life” status, which could be inferred from their mutual assistance, meals together, continued feelings of affection, and occasional sexual intercourses. Therefore, on the basis of such evidence, the Supreme Federal Court stated that the decision of the Court of Appeal to dismiss the indictment of A.A. was legitimate and rejected the Public Prosecutor’s appeal.

X. v. Y., BGE 131 IV 167 Supreme Federal Court (2005)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Sexual violence and rape

Y. was married to X. until 1993. After the divorce, he continued to live with his former wife until March 2001, when he moved into his own flat. The former spouses continued their sexual relationship until September 2, 2001, after which they finally separated. From September 21 to October 12, 2001, Y. sent X. a large number of messages demanding that she perform certain sexual acts and threatening her. X. finally consented to the sexual acts demanded - including sexual intercourse and filming a sex tape. X. was forced to film pornography and suffered sexual abuse for about two months. Initially, the Winterthur Court condemned Y. to sixteen (16) months in prison for sexual coercion and rape. On appeal, the prison sentence was reduced to four (4) months, but Y.’s culpability was firmly reiterated. Y. appealed to the Supreme Federal Court, claiming that the threats to X. were not as severe as the prosecution had claimed. This appeal was rejected by the Supreme Federal Court, and the sentence of four (4) months remained in place.

Public Prosecutor of Fribourg Canton v. B., BGE 132 IV 120 Supreme Federal Court (2006)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Sexual violence and rape

A. (born in 1970) and B. (born in 1969) became engaged in 1996, and, two years after the engagement, they began to have regular sexual relations. On September 3, 2002, whilst under the influence of alcohol, the two engaged in intercourse in A’s house without her consent, with B. filming the act. These sexual encounters continued until 2004, when the Fribourg Cantonal Police seized the tapes recorded. The Canton of Fribourg Supreme Court convicted B. of first and second degree sexual coercion and rape and sentenced him to imprisonment. In 2004, and, on appeal, in 2006, A. was sentenced with a fine for having produced and manufactured, as the protagonist, violent pornography (paragraphs 3 and 3a Art. 197 Criminal Code). The couple appealed to the Supreme Federal Court, invoking mitigating circumstances covered by article 63 Criminal Code, citing the fact that both individuals were drunk when recording the first two tapes. The Supreme Federal Court noted that A. was not a minor under the age of 16; however, she had been subjected to acts of violence that were unacceptable. B. forced her to undergo disproportionate torture and degrading and inhuman acts that contravened her human rights. Thus, B.’s heavy prison sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Federal Court. Additionally, the Supreme Federal Court judged that sexual coercion (Art. 189 Criminal Code) and rape (Art. 190 Criminal Code) may occur even if the sexual act was atypical and did not consist of the penis penetrating a woman’s genitalia.