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Referendums For Members

What's Switzerland's 'physical integrity' referendum on June 9th all about?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
What's Switzerland's 'physical integrity' referendum on June 9th all about?
Anti-vaxxer initiative will be voted on June 9th. Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP

On June 9th, Swiss voters will decide on whether the country’s residents should have the right to refuse procedures that would impact their ‘physical integrity.’ What exactly does this mean?

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Four issues in total will be brought to the ballot box on June 9th.

Among the most controversial topics are the two initiatives seeking to curb the cost of the obligatory health insurance — one by capping the premiums at 10 percent of income, and the other by  providing a ‘brake’ on health costs, which should evolve according to the economy and wages.

READ ALSO: How Switzerland's two crucial health insurance referendums could impact you 

But there are two other proposals on the agenda as well.

One, titled “For the freedom of physical integrity” was launched by the STOP compulsory vaccination committee of a group called Swiss Freedom Movement.

While it may seem a bit outdated today, this citizen-driven initiative saw the light of day during the Covid pandemic, when the Federal Council had to take some drastic measures — including quarantine and confinement —  to protect the population from the virus and prevent the healthcare system, especially hospitals, from being saturated.

This, along with the vaccines introduced at the end of 2020, prompted the group to start colecting enough signatures to challenge these measures in a referendum.

What exactly is it about?

The initiative demands "protection of the body" against interference by the state.

It specifies that the consent of the person concerned must be obtained for invasive procedures that may affect their "physical or mental integrity", which basically means any medical interventions, like vaccinations, but in practice it goes much further (read more about this below).

The federal government, cantonal health authorities, and health experts in general, recommend that voters reject this proposal, for several reasons.

One is that physical and mental integrity are already protected under the Constitution, which guarantees the right to ‘self-determination’ in matters of health and life in general.

As for vaccinations, whether against the coronavirus or any other diseases, nobody can be forced to be immunised against their will in Switzerland.

Another argument against the initiative is that, if it is passed, it would hinder measures that the government would have to implement to protect the population in case of another pandemic.

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But there would be non-medical consequences as well

Since the initiative doesn’t specifically refer to medical interventions but covers generally any actions by the federal government, cantons and communes that involve physical contact, it implies that police would no longer be able to arrest a suspect without his or her authorisation — as such actions would involve physical contact that could impact a person’s mental state.

According to the government, the initiative focuses on individual rights and ignores the overriding public interest.

The initiative therefore goes well beyond vaccination and other health matters, it said.

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The fourth issue: electricity supply

Supplying Switzerland with sufficient energy has become a challenge due to International conflicts and the restructuring of the European power grid.

Therefore, a new law sets the ground for Switzerland to rapidly produce more electricity from renewable energy sources such as water, sun, wind, and biomass. 

Opponents, however, say that the legislation will be detrimental to environmental causes like the protection of nature, and urge the 'no' vote.

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