Sara and Carmen

A while ago, I met Sara and Carmen, a lesbian couple living in Winterthur, Switzerland. They live in a registered partnership and have a daughter, Joa, who's turned 1 in July. I interviewed them in the summer and have recently started photographing them for my (book) project about lesbian lives. The idea behind this project is to document and highlight the challenges, difficulties and discriminations lesbian women are dealing with around the world. I started work in Johannesburg, and I'm very happy to have found Sara and Carmen for my Swiss chapter (and also that they live considerably closer).

Switzerland lags concerningly behind the times when it comes to marriage equality. LGBT couples can “register their partnership,” but it’s a far cry from having proper marriage rights, especially when kids are involved: LGBT couples are not allowed to adopt children, nor at they allowed to adopt their partner’s children. Sara and Carmen hired a lawyer as soon as Joa was born and have since spent many hours (and francs) on drafting and notarising documents stating that Carmen — who’s not Joa’s biological mom — is willing and able to care for her as her co-mother.

Even though they live in a registered partnership, Sara’s name popped up at the child services office as soon as Joa was born. She was listed there under “single mom.” And even though she officially changed her name to Carmen’s last name when they married, Joa’s last name was Sara’s maiden name — which again, they had to spend time and money on to change to their family name. When I visited them yesterday and talked with Sara about this, she said in a frustrated voice: “This expression, “registered partnership” — I just can’t take it anymore. It angers me! I want to be married, like everyone else.”


Politically, things are changing slowly. Operation Libero started a petition for real marriage equality and the Green Liberal Party released a statement saying “we are positive that Switzerland will vote on it next year.” However, the Christian Democratic Party recently petitioned to cement the definition of marriage being between a man and a woman into the constitution. Right-wing politician Toni Bortoluzzi, trying to weigh in on the debate, announced last year that homosexuality was “unnatural.” “Don’t accept every stupidity as normalcy,” he warned. His party, however, was not amused about these comments and dropped him off their list: He won’t be eligible for the national council this year. Well, Toni, who’s stupid now?

Sara was a stay-at-home mom in the first year after Joa was born. She recently started working part-time again, as a carpenter. On her days off, she takes care of Joa, and the household.

During the day, Sara and Joa often take a short walk to see Carmen who works as an architect nearby. Carmen says she always makes time to play with Joa, to draw and play with her while Sara takes a break and smokes a cigarette.

Euan, their nephew, drew this picture of the couple when Sara was pregnant. I love how Joa looks like a little mermaid!

Carmen says good-bye after lunch to go back to the office…

…and Joa takes a nap.


More pictures coming soon!