Procedural rights

This chapter provides information on the debate about reparation for people who were victims of compulsory social measures, including so-called contract children, children in care, people subjected to administrative detention, people whose re-productive rights were violated through abortion or forced sterilisation and others - both women and men.

Reparation for women subject to administrative detention in Hindelbank Prison from 1942-1981

In the period between 1942 and 1981, a large number of women (including many minors) were made subject to «administrative detention» and sent to Hindelbank Prison. Most of these women were detained under the cantonal public law or federal civil law at the time, without ever having committed a crime. Illegitimate pregnancy (in minors), for example, was a common reason for administrative detention. Administrative detention by various authorities has two distinctive features: firstly, it was not possible to request a court hearing; and secondly, the facilities were not suitable for the intended «education measures». At Hindelbank, the women subject to administrative detention were actually not separated from offenders.

Re-examination and current debate

The FCWI, which had already examined the situation of women in prison in Switzerland  in 1977/78, dealt with the issue. As an independent extra-parliamentary commission, it acted as a mediator in dealings with the authorities and the persons concerned, after the latter contacted the Commission regarding their concerns for the first time in 2007/2008.

On 10 September 2010, an event was held in Hindelbank Prison at which the federal government and the cantons offered a public apology to the women who had been subjected to administrative detention for the injustice they suffered. A transcript of the speech given by Federal Councillor Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, is available in German on this webpage:

Further information is available on the website of the persons who suffered administrative detention, which includes all articles on this topic published to date:


«Weggesperrt» («Locked away», publisher: Beobachter)

In his book «Weggesperrt. Warum Zehntausende in der Schweiz unschuldig hinter Gittern sassen» (published in German, the title can be translated as: Locked away. Why tens of thousands of innocent people sat behind bars in Switzerland), the lawyer and Beobachter editor Dominique Strebel examines the issue of persons subjected to administrative detention (the victims include men). He documents their road to rehabilitation and asks how this injustice might be atoned for. The book portrays a dark chapter of Swiss history which is still in the recent past. The Federal Commission for Women's Issues FCWI worked with the Beobachter to support the rehabilitation of the injured parties and supported the publication of this book.

Women subjected to administrative detention in Hindelbank Prison and the FCWI's involvement in the 1970s and the 1980s

In its report entitled «Strafvollzug an Frauen in der Schweiz» (Women in prison in Switzerland) published in 1978, the FCWI addressed the situation in Hindelbank Prison. This now raises the question as to what the Commission's stance on administrative detention was at the time. The following working paper (available only in German) explores this issue on the basis of contemporary sources.

Further information