Defence minister under fire for ‘sexist’ speeches

Swiss Defence Minister Ueli Maurer is under attack for repeatedly making sexist comments in a gag used to promote the planned purchase of Swedish Gripen fighter jets by the state.

Defence minister under fire for 'sexist' speeches
Ueli Maurer: faces backlash over 'sexist' remarks. Photo: Federal Chancellery

Maurer has compared his wife to ageing household appliances in a line that is supposed to encourage citizens to vote in favour of the jets in an upcoming referendum.

The member of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party says the Gripen planes are needed to replace aging F5 Tiger aircraft, likening them to 30-year-old “things” that you could still have at home.

“At my house it’s just my wife,” he said in a speech in Neuchâtel last week captured by Swiss broadcaster RTS.

“All the other things have been changed.”

The revelations sparked calls from critics for Maurer to resign or at the very minimum to apologize for his comments.

Maurer’s press office said the federal cabinet minister is not commenting on the issue.

The controversy arises as Maurer already faces an uphill battle to convince the Swiss public of the need for the new fighter aircraft.

The federal government agreed in 2011 to a 3.1-billion-franc ($3.5-billion) deal to acquire 22 of the planes from Swedish-based manufacturer Saab.

The goal is to replace 54 F5 Tigers that are considered to be out of date.

But the latest opinion poll showed that 52 percent of voters are opposed to the deal, which is the subject of a May 18th referendum.

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