Switzerland rolls back ‘antiquated’ ban on women showing their shoulders in parliament

Switzerland rolls back ‘antiquated’ ban on women showing their shoulders in parliament
A woman flashes her shoulders in Swiss parliament. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
Women in Swiss parliament are now allowed to show their shoulders and arms after the Council of States relaxed its clothing regulations for women.

Hans Stöckli, current president of the house, announced at 3:15pm on Tuesday “shoulder-free is now possible”. Stöckli said he considered the ban to be “antiquated”. 

Previously, women in the chamber were required to be covered up to at least their elbows. The dress code applies not only to members of parliament but also to anyone else in the chamber, including journalists. 

Under the current dress code, “women must wear clothing which is appropriate to their official status”. What is appropriate is the decision of “the responsible person concerned”. 

IN PICTURES: Swiss parliament resumes in plexiglass ‘aquariums' 

The dress code for men remains the same: shirts, suits and ties or bow ties must be worn by all men in the chamber. Journalists are not required to wear ties or bow ties. 

The dress code had been in place since 2016, when it replaced an informal requirement that women wear “decent clothing”. 

Another change was to allow members of parliament to use their laptops during the debate, provided the keyboard is silent. 

Women parliamentarians stick to the shoulder rule.  Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

‘A little revolution’ 

Swiss news outlet Tages Anzeiger says the decision represents “a little revolution” for women in the Swiss legislative chamber. 

“Only four years ago, an NZZ editor was thrown out of the hall because she was showing too much shoulder, which unduly restricted the ability to concentrate of many of the nobility. So now things are becoming more permissive,” the Zurich-based newspaper reported. 

The change may however represent a false dawn for hopes of a more progressive dress code in the chamber. 

The Tages Anzeiger reports that “there may now be bare shoulders in the holy hall” but they are not yet visible to everyone due to the comprehensive plexiglass set up. 

“It is possible, however, that the corona situation has made it easier for the members of the Estates to make a decision… (shoulders) will only become visible when Corona is defeated and the mirror cabinet is cleared away. That may still take some time.” 


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