The other day my daughter walked out of a dressing room at a clothing store in Geneva. She giggled, “They’re not allowed to do that.” “Do what?” She pointed to a sign that stated in French, “Shoplifters will be prosecuted and charged an administration fee of CHF 150.00.”
Once again the Swiss education system caught me by surprise. All first-year students in collège (high school) are required to complete one semester of law focusing mostly on Swiss Civil Codes. Civil Codes are laws designed to manage relationships between individuals. There are several hundred codes but her teacher -a practicing lawyer- reviewed the most relevant codes for teenagers and taught them how to apply those laws to various scenarios.
Her teacher was by no means promoting shoplifting but unfortunately classmates have been caught stealing during class excursions. So, he explained that the law states “shoplifters will be prosecuted in a court of law.” However, a past “Procureur General” authorized the practice that a shop can either call the police, thus allowing the courts to decide the punishment, or charge a fine. The shoplifter can always choose to reject the fine and go to court.
Attention parents! This is important. Article 277 states that parents must take care of their children until they become adults at age 18. If after 18, the child has not yet had a suitable education in order to begin working, the parents must pay for his care until such time that the child can complete his education in a normal time frame. My daughter, for instance, is considering becoming a doctor. According to her interpretation, it seems that I am financially responsible for her until she finishes her schooling –in 10 additional years- and at which time she can be appropriately employed. I am questioning if ten years is “a normal time frame.”
The boys in the law class were excited to learn about the article pertaining to gifts. Parents cannot forbid their children to accept gifts such as an Xbox, a paint gun or a snowboard. However, the teacher quickly dashed their hopes when he explained that parents still maintain the right to forbid their use.
Lastly, it seems time has run out for me to legally forbid my daughter to accompany her friends to religious classes. Article 303 states that parents have the right to choose their child’s religious education. Nobody can influence this choice. However, at age 16 (along with the legal ability to purchase wine, beer and cigarettes) a child gains the right to choose his own religion.
Reading French, for me, is a challenge. Reading law, in any language, is nearly impossible. While researching and writing this blog, I used the French-language book Code Civil Suisse and class notes; loosely translating the French myself. Later I discovered an English translation of the codes on the official webpage of The Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation. I urge you to explore and post any Civil Codes that might be interesting or different vis-a-vis your own country!
Link to Swiss Civil Code in English.
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/.