Europäischer Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte
Cour européenne des droits de l'homme
Corte europea dei diritti dell'uomo
European Court of Human Rights
AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF
Application No. 28334/95
by Paul FRISCHKNECHT
The European Commission of Human Rights (First Chamber) sitting
in private on 18 January 1996, the following members being present:
MM. C.L. ROZAKIS, President
Mrs. J. LIDDY
MM. E. BUSUTTIL
Mrs. M.F. BUQUICCHIO, Secretary to the Chamber
Having regard to Article 25 of the Convention for the Protection
of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;
Having regard to the application introduced on 23 August 1995 by
Paul Frischknecht against Switzerland and registered on 28 August 1995
under file No. 28334/95;
Having regard to the report provided for in Rule 47 of the Rules
of Procedure of the Commission;
Decides as follows:
The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be
summarised as follows.
The applicant, a Swiss citizen born in 1956, resides at Herisau
Particular circumstances of the case
Since 1990 the applicant is a house husband (Hausmann) and not
gainfully employed. His wife is a teacher.
The Compensation Office (Ausgleichskasse) of the Canton of St.
Gallen registered the applicant as a person who was not gainfully
employed (erwerbstätig) and ordered him to pay insurance contributions
for the Old Age and Survivors' Insurance (Alters- und
Hinterlassenenversicherung) amounting to 333.60 CHF per year for 1991,
1992 and 1993. On 21 February 1992 the Compensation Office annulled
its previous decision and ordered the applicant to pay yearly amounts
of 832 CHF for 1991-1993.
The applicant filed an appeal (Rekurs) with the Insurance Court
(Versicherungsgericht) of the Canton of St. Gallen, claiming that he
should be exempted from the obligation to pay contributions. He
referred in particular to the situation of housewives who according to
Section 3 para. 2 b) of the Federal Old Age and Survivors' Insurance
Act (Bundesgesetz über die Alters- und Hinterlassenenversicherung: see
below, Relevant domestic law) were exempted from the obligation to pay
contributions. The Insurance Court on 30 June 1994 dismissed the
appeal insofar as the applicant had complained of unequal treatment
between man and woman; the appeal was partly upheld in respect of the
calculation of the amounts.
The applicant's administrative law appeal (Verwaltungsgerichts-
beschwerde) was dismissed by the Federal Insurance Court
(Eidgenössisches Versicherungsgericht) on 2 February 1995, the decision
being served on 23 February 1995. In its decision, the Court stated
"One must agree with the applicant that the notion of family
underlying the Old Age and Survivors' Insurance Act is hardly
reconcilable with present legal reality, in particular with the
principle of the distribution of roles among partners on which
the new matrimonial law is based. However, the law in force
offers no possibility to consider the concerns put forward by
him. Section 4 para. 2 of the Federal Constitution only offers
the person concerned a directly enforceable right in the area of
equality of pay... For the rest, Section 4 para. 2 of the
Federal Constitution, according to its clear text, is directed
at the legislator who must ensure equality between man and woman
in particular in family, education and labour. According to
case-law, since the entry into force of Section 4 para. 2 of the
Federal Constitution the cantonal and federal legislator is
prohibited in principle from enacting laws which treat man and
woman unequally... On the other hand, statutes enacted by
Federal Parliament... cannot be examined by the judge as to
their constitutionality (Section 113 para. 3... of the Federal
Constitution). The Federal Insurance Court cannot, therefore,
examine in the light of the principle of legal equality statutory
unequal treatment between wives and husbands who are exclusively
active in the household in respect of their obligation to pay
contributions. This also implies that it cannot set aside the
clear meaning of a legal rule by means of an interpretation
conforming to the constitution... The clear text of Section 3
para. 2 a) of the Old Age and Survivors' Insurance Act expressly
excludes solely wives who are not gainfully employed from the
obligation to pay contribution; thus, the judge is prohibited
from correcting by means of an interpretation the distribution
of roles as conceived by the model of the Civil Code in 1907."
"Dem Beschwerdeführer ist darin beizupflichten, dass das
Familienbild, wie es dem AHVG zugrundeliegt, mit der heutigen
Rechtswirklichkeit, insbesondere auch dem auf dem Prinzip der
partnerschaftlichen Rollenverteilung aufbauenden neuen Eherecht,
kaum vereinbar ist. Das geltende Recht enthält jedoch keine
Handhabe, um dem von ihm vorgetragenen Anliegen Rechnung zu
tragen. Art. 4 Abs. 2 BV gibt den Betroffenen nur einen direkt
klagbaren Anspruch im Bereiche der Lohngleichheit... Im übrigen
wendet sich Art. 4 Abs. 2 BV nach seinem klaren Wortlaut an den
Gesetzgeber, der für die Gleichstellung von Mann und Frau vor
allem in Familie, Ausbildung und Arbeit zu sorgen hat. Nach der
Rechtsprechung ist es dem kantonalen und dem eidgenössischen
Gesetzgeber seit Inkrafttreten von Art. 4 Abs. 2 BV grundsätzlich
untersagt, Normen zu erlassen, welche Mann und Frau ungleich
behandeln... Anderseits können die von der Bundesversammlung
erlassenen Gesetze... vom Richter nicht auf ihre
Verfassungsmässigkeit überprüft werden (Art. 113 Abs. 3... BV).
Das Eidgenösasische Versicherungsgericht kann daher die
gesetzlich festgelegte Ungleichbehandlung zwischen
ausschliesslich im Haushalt tätigen Ehefrauen und Ehemännern
bezüglich der Beitragspflicht nicht am Grundsatz der
Rechtsgleichheit messen. Dies beinhaltet zugleich aber auch,
dass es den klaren Sinn einer Gesetzesnorm nicht durch eine
verfassungskonforme Auslegung beiseite schieben darf... Da nach
dem klaren Wortlaut des Art. 3 Abs. 2 lit. b AHVG ausdrücklich
nur die nichterwerbstätigen Ehefrauen von der Beitragspflicht
ausgenommen sind, ist es dem Richter untersagt, das nach dem
Muster des ZGB von 1907 konzipierte Rollenverständnis auf dem Weg
der Auslegung zu korrigieren."
Relevant domestic law
Section 4 para. 2 of the Swiss Federal Constitution (Bundesver-
fassung) provides that "man and woman are equal; the law shall ensure
their equality, in particular in family, education and labour..."
("Mann und Frau sind gleichberechtigt. Das Gesetz sorgt für ihre
Gleichsstellung in Familie, Ausbildung und Arbeit...").
According to Section 113 para. 3 of the Federal Constitution,
"the statutes... enacted by Federal Parliament... are binding for the
Federal Court" ("die von der Bundesversammlung erlassenen Gesetze
(sind) für das Bundesgericht massgebend").
Section 3 of the Federal Old Age and Survivors' Insurance Act
(Bundesgesetz über die Alters- und Hinterlassenenversicherung)
determines those persons who are obliged to pay insurance contributions
(beitragspflichtig). Para. 2 b) states:
"2. There shall be no obligation to pay contributions for:
b. wives of insured persons who are not gainfully employed,
and wives who collaborate in the husband's enterprise to the
extent that they have no salary."
"2. Von der Beitragspflicht sind befreit:
b. die nichterwerbstätigen Ehefrauen von Versicherten sowie im
Betriebe des Ehemannes mitarbeitenden Ehefrauen, soweit sie
keinen Barlohn beziehen."
The applicant complains under Article 14 of the Convention of
unequal treatment in that he, as a house husband, is obliged to pay
insurance contributions, whereas a housewife is not. He submits that
his wife must pay approximately 10% more contributions than her male
colleagues earning the same salary. There is, therefore, a difference
of pay of approximately 0,5%.
1. The applicant complains of unequal treatment in that he, as a
house husband, is obliged to pay insurance contributions, whereas a
housewife is not. He relies on Article 14 (Art. 14) of the Convention
"The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this
Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground
such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other
opinion, national or social origin, association with a national
minority, property, birth or other status."
2. The Commission notes that the Federal Insurance Court in its
decision of 2 February 1995 stated that it was bound by the text of
Section 3 para. 2 b) of the Federal Old Age and Survivors' Insurance
Act. An issue arises therefore whether the applicant had an effective
remedy at his disposal and whether he has complied with the time-limit
of six months within the meaning of Article 26 (Art. 26) of the
Convention. The Commission need nevertheless not resolve these issues
since the application is inadmissible for the following reasons.
3. According to the Convention organs' case-law, Article 14
(Art. 14) of the Convention complements the other substantive
provisions of the Convention and the Protocols. It has no independent
existence since it has effect solely in relation to "the enjoyment of
the rights and freedoms" safeguarded by those provisions. Although the
application of Article 14 (Art. 14) does not necessarily presuppose a
breach of those provisions - and to this extent it is autonomous -,
there can be no room for its application unless the facts at issue fall
within the ambit of one or more of the latter (see Eur. Court H.R.,
Abdulaziz and others v. the United Kingdom judgment of 28 May 1985,
Series A no. 94, p. 35, para. 71).
The Commission has therefore considered whether the facts at
issue fall within the ambit of any other provision of the Convention
or its Protocols.
As Switzerland has not ratified Protocol No. 1, the Commission
must not examine whether the facts at issue fall within the ambit of
Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1) of the Convention which enshrines
the right to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions.
Next, the Commission has had regard to Article 8 (Art. 8) of the
Convention which states, insofar as relevant:
"1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with
the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with
the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests
of national security, public safety or the economic well-being
of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the
protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the
rights and freedoms of others."
In the Commission's opinion, however, the applicant has not shown
that the obligation to pay insurance contributions hindered him in the
enjoyment of, or in any other way affected, his right to respect for
This part of the application is, therefore, manifestly ill-
founded within the meaning of Article 27 para. 2 (Art. 27-2) of the
4. The Commission has also had regard to Article 5 of Protocol No. 7
(P7-5) which states, insofar as relevant:
"Spouses shall enjoy equality of rights and responsibilities of
a private law character between them... during marriage..."
The Commission notes that the issue in the present case is the
exemption from the obligation to pay social insurance contributions.
It is true that the Convention organs have considered social-security
disputes as involving the determination of a "civil right" within the
meaning of Article 6 para. 1 (Art. 6-1) of the Convention, while
distinguishing them from private-law disputes in the traditional sense
(see Eur. Court H.R., Deumeland v. Germany judgment of 29 May 1986,
Series A no. 100, p. 22, para. 60; Schuler-Zgraggen v. Switzerland
judgment of 24 June 1993, Series A no. 263, p. 17, para. 46).
In the Commission's opinion, however, it cannot be concluded that
as a result of the above interpretation the "rights and
responsibilities" at issue were of a "private law character" within the
meaning of Article 5 of Protocol No. 7 (P7-5).
The Commission finds a confirmation herefor in the explanatory
report to Protocol No. 7 (P7) to the Convention according to which
Article 5 (Art. 5) does not apply to other fields of law, such as
administrative, fiscal, social or labour laws.
The remainder of the application is, therefore, incompatible
ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention within the
meaning of Article 27 para. 2 (Art. 27-2) of the Convention.
For these reasons, the Commission, unanimously,
DECLARES THE APPLICATION INADMISSIBLE.
Secretary to the First Chamber President of the First Chamber
(M.F. BUQUICCHIO) (C.L. ROZAKIS)