UN Committee finds France in violation of civil rights treaty for school hijab bans

UN Committee finds France in violation of civil rights treaty for school hijab bans

The so-called burqa ban in France was criticized by the UN Human Rights Committee, which said that the measure “violated” the rights of two women who were fined for going out in public with full-face coverings on. The committee demanded that the 2010 legislation prohibiting persons from wearing face-covering apparel in public be reviewed in addition to paying the women’s compensation. The committee concluded in a statement that “the French law disproportionately harmed the petitioners’ right to manifest their religious beliefs.”

UN Committee’s ruling

It went on to say that it did not buy France’s argument that the ban was required for social and security concerns. In 2012, the two French ladies who wore the niqab were found guilty. “The ban, rather than protecting fully veiled women, could have the opposite effect of confining them to their homes, impeding their access to public services and marginalizing them,” according to the committee. 

While it does not have the authority to implement agreements, the UN Human Rights Committee, which is composed of impartial experts, makes sure that nations uphold their human rights obligations. It stated the French restriction was “too sweeping” and that under some conditions, governments might still require people to reveal their faces. Committee member Ilze Brands-Kehris told AFP that women wearing niqabs have been the victims of inspections and penalties in the great majority of cases.

Reactions and responses

The committee’s decision rekindles the years-long French debate on Muslim headgear and other religious apparel. The argument has frequently pitted proponents of the nation’s secular constitution against proponents of religious liberty. When the 2010 law was introduced under former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, it was well received by the people. 

However, many said it was directed against the small percentage of Muslim women who wear Islamic veils in France. France became the first country in Europe to outlaw face-covering clothing when this law was passed, despite criticism that it catered to far-right voters and the support of several women’s rights campaigners. France is home to an estimated five million Muslims, and women who choose to disobey the restriction risk fines of up to 150 euros ($170).

Impact on education and society

“In the context of fewer than 2,000 women wearing the full-face veil in France (the law has) a vast disproportionate effect on those women.” Similar restrictions on the full face veil have also been enacted in Denmark, Austria, and Belgium, among other European Union nations. The committee declared, “France violated the human rights of two women by fining them for wearing the niqab,” and it suggested that steps be taken, such as a revision of the legislation, to stop future occurrences of this kind of behavior. According to Brands-Kehris, France, having joined UN rights treaties, is “under obligation” to follow the committee’s recommendations and behave honorably. The committee’s position is in opposition to a 2014 European Court of Human Rights decision that maintained the French prohibition and rejected arguments that it infringed upon religious freedom. The court determined that although the ban was “not expressly based on the religious connotation of the clothing,” France was justified in enacting it in the sake of social cohesion.

Path forward

Committee Chair Yuval Shany explained the committee’s conclusion by stating that a comprehensive criminal prohibition did not provide a “reasonable” balance between individual rights and public interests. “The decisions are not directed against the notion of secularity, nor are they an endorsement of a custom which many on the committee, including myself, regard as a form of oppression of women,” Shany stated. The committee also criticized France in August for terminating a nursery worker in 2008 for refusing to take off her veil at work, citing interference with her freedom to practice her faith. Many judicial fights had previously been fought in the French courts over the matter known as the “Baby Loup case,” which was named after the nursery.

Call to action: Boycott Pairs Olympics 2024

The debate about the efficacy of the “burqa ban” also garnered attention earlier this month when it was discovered that French mobster Redoine Faid, who used a helicopter to escape from prison in July and was apprehended three months later, had occasionally donned a burqa as a disguise. Faid was apprehended, according to the police, after they noticed a person strolling like a male while donning a burqa. These are the claws due to which the public should boycott Pairs olympics 2024 because they are not secure anymore.



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