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Swarthmore College

Publication Date

Fall 2015

Program Name

Switzerland: Global Health and Development Policy


Background: Through the UN Human Rights Declaration and articles of other UN treaty bodies, access to healthcare is a fundamental human right that has been granted to all, including undocumented migrants (UDMs). In Switzerland, reports estimate that there are between 80,000 to 100,000 UDMs. Among European countries, Switzerland is one of the few countries where UDMs have the right to access healthcare services beyond emergency healthcare, as they are included in the Swiss Federal Law on Compulsory Healthcare (LAMal). For UDM women, they face two layers of vulnerability (their irregular living status and the reproductive health needs that come with their gender).

Objective: This research paper will explore UDM women’s legal right to access reproductive healthcare in Switzerland. The objective is to put the unique framework of Switzerland’s healthcare policy for UDMs under examination, following human rights law to its intersection with reproductive healthcare, ultimately ending with the specific provision of reproductive healthcare for UDM women who are victims of FGM, analyzing the successes, gaps, and challenges that occur during the translation from theory to practice through looking at adequacy, accessibility, affordability, adaptability, and quality.

Method: To conduct research capturing the evolution of legal and healthcare policies, the data used was a combination of primary and secondary sources, combining research reports from organizations that analyzed undocumented migration in Switzerland with focuses on human rights, healthcare and/or reproductive healthcare for UDMs with an interactive approach of formal and informal interviews to expand on the intersections of law and reproductive health for UDM women in Switzerland.

Results/Findings: This research finds that both shortcomings and strengths exist in the enactment of UDM women’s human right to access reproductive healthcare in Switzerland. Experts discussed key challenges for migrants to enact their human right to healthcare afforded to them in the health policy due to the high costs of health insurance premiums and challenges due to their irregular stay to receiving subsidies in different cantons. The fact that UDMs could access reproductive healthcare in Switzerland is a success, however challenges exist due to the accessibility of healthcare providers in different cantons, the accessibility and affordability of the costs of care, the adequacy of reproductive healthcare to meet the needs of UDM women due to challenges in adapting to cultural and linguistic specifications, and the quality of care for UDM women who are victims of FGM.

Conclusion: Tracing the human right to access healthcare for UDMs points for the need for a more integrated system of healthcare for UDMs throughout Switzerland. In theory with the incorporation of cultural sensitivity education for healthcare providers, the accessibility of interpreters, policies facilitating the access to subsidies in the cantons, and organizations helping UDM women navigate the healthcare system, UDM women’s experience seeking reproductive healthcare in Switzerland could be more aligned with their human right to access healthcare and the Swiss healthcare policy supporting this right. Going forward, further research on this topic should expand to more cantons in Switzerland and see how to establish a framework to assess UDM women’s reproductive health in the long term.


Human Rights Law | Public Health | Women's Health