In 2014, the Geneva authorities fined a woman $ 563 for begging and arrested her when she could not pay.
The European Court of Human Rights has accused Switzerland of imposing a heavy fine on a Romanian woman for begging and then arresting her if she could not pay.
The ethnic Roma in her late twenties was fined 500 Swiss francs (464 euros, currently 563 US dollars) for begging on the street in Geneva in January 2014.
When the woman, who is illiterate and has no work or social benefits, was unable to pay, she was temporarily detained for five days.
The court found on Tuesday that the punishments against women are disproportionate to Switzerland’s goals of combating organized crime and protecting passers-by, residents and entrepreneurs.
The woman has “the right inherent in human dignity to express her distress and to try to satisfy her needs by begging,” it says in the judgment.
Switzerland had violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guaranteed the protection of private and family life, and asked the country to pay the woman moral damages of 922 euros (1,118 US dollars).
It is estimated that between 10 and 12 million Roma live in Europe, with most living in eastern parts of the continent in countries like Romania.
With their roots in India, the Roma emigrated to Eastern Europe in the 10th century and have been persecuted throughout history.
After the fall of the Soviet Union and the break-up of Yugoslavia, many traveled west to escape poverty and discrimination.