Swiss fury over woman scorned

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The Independent Online
FURIOUS women's groups are threatening the future of Switzerland's 34-year-old coalition government in the wake of a vicious smear campaign that denied a government job to a woman candidate, writes Leonard Doyle.

In a country where women have only had the right to vote in this generation, parliament's decision on Wednesday to deny Christiane Brunner a seat in the cabinet smacked of blatant male chauvinism. The smear campaign began when an organisation called the 'Committee to Save the Morals of our Institutions' claimed she had had an abortion - illegal in Switzerland - and that it had nude photographs of her. Mrs Brunner denied there were any nude photographs of her, but refused to confirm or deny the abortion allegation, saying it would mean that 'all women aspiring to public office would have the obligation to justify themselves in the face of such insinuations'.

Women took to the streets of Zurich yesterday accosting MPs as they made their way to work and demanding that the decision be overruled. Anger at the decision may make the Social Democratic party in the Swiss coalition pull out of government. Ms Brunner, a feminist lawyer, is head of Switzerland's largest watchmaking union and is best known for leading a women's strike in 1991 to mark the 10th anniversary of women achieving legal equality.