Switzerland has moved to make homophobic and transphobic discrimination illegal in an effort to combat anti-LGBTI sentiment in the country.

The changes will see homophobia and transphobia made criminal in the same way racism currently is, with those who break the law facing up to three years in prison.

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The Swiss National Council voted 118 to 60 in favour of the law, Gay Times reported.

Mathias Reynard, the councillor who proposed the law, said, “Victory! By 118 against 60 and 5 abstentions, the National Council accepts my parliamentary initiative against homophobia and Transphobia! A great success for human rights!”

Switzerland is considered behind the times when it comes to certain rights, with same-sex marriage still a pending issue – despite overwhelming public support – and same-sex couples unable to adopt as a result.

The Swiss legislative process is notoriously slow; an initiative in favour of same-sex marriage was passed in 2013 and is still making its way through the necessary processes towards a constitutional amendment.

Reynard also initially introduced his motion in 2013.

At the same time, the Swiss National Council has been making strides, moving to remove the legal necessity for trans people to sue to have their gender legally recognised.

Motions were also passed earlier this year to introduce an ‘X’ gender marker, as well as the capacity for intersex people to leave the sex entry blank on official documentation.

Switzerland has also effectively outlawed conversion therapy.

“Homophobia is not an opinion. It’s a crime. One in five homosexuals attempted suicide, half before the age of 20. This victory sends a strong signal. I have already received hundreds of reactions,” Reynard said.

Rene Schegg of Swiss advocacy group Pink Cross said the updated anti-discrimination laws were an important step.

“It will likely bring Switzerland back to the rankings of the International Association of LGBTI People, where our country currently ranks 22nd behind Estonia and Hungary.”

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