Switzerland, a Conservative Country for Women
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Switzerland is not at the cutting edge of women’s progress and by and large this is not an issue in Swiss politics and society. Women have had the right to vote at the federal level only since 1971, and the last canton to include women for regional election was Appenzell in 1991.

The first female Federal Councilor was elected in 1984, but resigned (see Chapter 13). But there are quite a number of women in politics now. Ruth Dreifuss, elected in 1993 as Federal Councilor, became the first female President of Switzerland in 1999. In 1999, a second woman—the young, dynamic and attractive Ruth Metzler—was elected to the Federal Council. But it was more her age than her gender that made the news. Elected at 34, she also is the youngest person to fill this position in over a century.

The situation at the parliamentary level is comparable to that of many other developed countries. There are 24% women in the lower house and only 15% in the upper house. An initiative to impose a compulsory 50% quota in the Federal Council and in the Swiss Parliament was rejected by 82% of the Swiss people in 2000. But the conservative view that Swiss women have of themselves is even deeper. According to a 1999 Economist poll, only 39% of the 3,000 Swiss women interviewed said they thought that “women should have all the same rights as men,” the second lowest proportion of the 11 countries polled (after Japan).

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