France’s 2010 law banning burqas in public places has been upheld by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Advocates in France claimed the prohibition of face veils in public encourages citizens to “live together.”
According to the Guardian, the law not only bans the wearing of face veils, but also balaclavas and hoods. Essentially, it prohibits women from covering their faces in public with any kind of garment. Despite the lack of specificity to burqa face veils, many Muslims claim the law is an attack on their religious rights.
The court’s decision to uphold the face veil ban was brought on by a 24-year-old French woman of Pakistani origin, according to France24.com. She claimed the face veil ban discriminated her religious freedom, as well as her freedom of expression and assembly. Under the law, the woman (whose initials SAS were used to identify her) was forced to remove the veil covering her face when she appears in public. She wore not only a burqa, which covers her head and body, but a niqab which keeps everything covered except her eyes. She claimed that being forced to remove the veil was “degrading treatment.”
In the end, the courts sided with the French government and upheld the ban indefinitely. The arguments in favor of the veil ban included the fact that face veils “only served to stigmatize women, and Muslim women in particular.”
But this point was countered by Amnesty International, which represented the woman, SAS. President of Amnesty, Geneviève Garrigo, claimed the lawmakers used the stigmatization excuse to cover up legislation specifically targeting Muslim women.
“The argument that the law protects women has no foundation,” Garrigo said. “Many [Muslim] women wear veils of their own free will. The state does not exist to tell people how they should dress. Rather, it should allow them to make their own choices.”
According to the New York Times, the court consisted of 17 judges who agreed the ban did not discriminate against Muslim women. They upheld the law and released the following statement:
“While the court was aware that the disputed ban mainly affected certain Muslim women, it nevertheless noted that there was no restriction on the freedom to wear in public any item of clothing which did not have the effect of concealing the face and that the ban was not expressly based on the religious connotation of the clothing in question but solely on the fact that it concealed the face.”
The discussion over face veils remains relevant as France continues to have one of the biggest Muslim populations in Europe. What do you think? Should the veil ban have been upheld?
The Inquisitr has reported on bans related to religion in the past, including the banning of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims in Malaysia. Click here to read more.