How are Homosexuals Treated Differently in Switzerland and Saudi Arabia?

Silhouettes of People Holding Gay Pride Symbol FLag

By Abigail Horton

This  is the second year that La Chataigneraie is encouraging their students to participate in the ‘Me to We’ project. It is all about helping improve the lives of others and raising awareness for different subjects and areas that we are passionate about.

My team and I chose to do our project on raising awareness on homosexual rights, and what can be done to improve them.

For my contribution to the team, I decided to publish an article on the differences of homosexual rights in Switzerland, compared to Saudi Arabia.

So, how are homosexual people treated in Switzerland?

People in Switzerland weren’t allowed to be in a same-sex relationship until 1942, when it was made legal if you were over 21 years old (the age of consent in Switzerland at the time). Before that, if one was found in a homosexual relationship, the death punishment was applicable.

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A map of the acknowledgement of same-sex relationships across Europe as of 2015 (provided by The Guardian)

Between 1400 and 1798, the canton of Zurich alone gave out 1,424 death sentences.  Out of these, 179 were given after sodomy allegations. This made it the third most common offence punished by death (after theft and homicide).

In other parts of Europe, however, homosexual acts were handled in court, and it was more of a matter of what age the participants were rather than who was seen as the primary perpetrator.

Whether or not someone was prosecuted for homosexual acts very much depended on the governor or figure in power at that particular time. For example, when Hans Conrad Heidegger was governor of Kyburg Country between 1694 and 1698, twenty-two young people were executed for homosexual acts, whereas when he was succeeded, the trend finished.

Into the 19th century, death sentences for being caught in a homosexual relationship stopped. However, they were still an official offense in many countries and states, including Switzerland, where you could be penalised with several years of imprisonment for being found in any homosexual relationship.

Thankfully, in 1942, one was allowed to be in a same-sex relationship (with the exception of marriage) and there was still prevalent discrimination until the 2000s. Finally, in 2007, gay marriage became legal. Interestingly, Switzerland was the first country that homosexual marriage was allowed by virtue of a referendum.

How are homosexual people treated in Saudi Arabia?

There is obviously less to say about how homosexuals are perceived in Saudi Arabia, as they are considered to have one of the worst LGBT rights records in the world. Both gay and lesbian activity is illegal, and LGBT people face legal challenges that limit their means of expression as well as their ability to carry out their day-to-day life. Discrimination against the LGBT community includes housing and employment discrimination, and there is no law put in place to prevent this. 

Whether or not LGBTs are allowed in the army is an ambiguous matter, and conversion therapy is outrageously not banned, while also not being allowed to adopt.  However, LGBTs are allowed to donate their blood to others.

Since 1932, if caught in a relationship with someone of the same sex, prison sentences are placed and range from two months to a life sentence, and lashing or execution may be used as punishment.

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Former Secretary-General of the U.N Ban Ki-Moon with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia Al-Jubeir. Saudi Arabia has been adamant on convincing the U.N not to involve LGBT rights in the country’s development goals.

Therefore, what are we doing to support homosexuals in our Me to We project?

In our Me to We project, we are organising a bake-sale to raise money for the LGBT.walco company in order for them to have a fair to raise awareness of homosexual rights. One of my team members is organising a day to raise awareness in La Chat and to show that we strongly disapprove of students making jokes about homosexuality, or using words like ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ in a disrespectful manner.

We will also be presenting our topic to Year 6, as well as our parents and teachers, and on that day another person of my team will be making a speech on how people that are homosexual should not, under any circumstances, or in any country, be discriminated, or treated differently to other members of society. We will also be making several posters to further develop our opinion on this subject.

Finally, I wrote this article so that students and parents of La Chat can understand how homosexuals are treated in different countries, and to hopefully better your knowledge about the issue. I hope this article will help you realise that we need to do something, both locally and globally, to change the rights of homosexuals so that they can lead lives that are just as fair as the rest of society.

By Abigail Horton