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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Prostitute’ Label Was a Civil Rights Violation

(CN) - Swiss police should not have entered a woman into a database as a prostitute based on the fact that she was carrying suspicious calling cards, Europe's highest human rights court ruled Tuesday.

Officers stopped 34-year-old S.K. at a police check in 1993 Geneva. The French national was carrying calling cards that read: "Nice, pretty woman, late thirties, would like to meet a man to have a drink together or go out from time to time." Based on this card, officers added S.K. into their records as a prostitute.

Switzerland banned her from living in the country for two years. In 2001, after receiving a suspended sentence in the nation for insults and threats, S.K. learned that her police file described her profession as "prostitute" and that the label also appeared in the criminal charges.

The police in 2005 alleged that they'd changed her profession to "dressmaker," but the word "prostitute" still figured in her file a year later.

S.K. brought her case to the European Court of Human Rights after police refused to disassociate the term from her conviction for threats in 2001, citing preventive measures.

The human rights court, based in Strasbourg, France, said Tuesday that the calling cards were too vague to support the prostitution allegation, and the tenuous connection to the conviction did not justify mention of the word "prostitute."

Swiss police violated respect for S.K. personal life by storing false data, the court ruled, ordering Switzerland to pay her about $21,000 in damages. The decision is available only in French.


Editor's note: This article was altered in 2019 to identify S.K. by her initials.

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