European Court of Human Rights Upholds France’s Burqa Ban

On Tuesday, July 2 the European Court of Human Rights upheld France’s 2010 law that bans the burqa in public spaces and ruled that the ban does not violate Muslim women’s human rights.

The case was brought to the Court by a 24-year-old Muslim French woman in April 2011, who denounced the law as not only discriminatory but also a breach of religious freedom.

At the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, judges ruled that “the preservation of the conditions of ‘living together’” is a “legitimate aim” of French authorities, and thus the law does not infringe on the European Convention on Human Rights, an international treaty signed by France.

The law, which was first passed in late 2010 and went into effect in 2011, prohibits “the covering of the face in public places,” with a fine up to 150 euros for violation. In addition, anyone who forces a woman to wear a burqa will face a year in prison.

This ban, however, has been controversial since 2009 when the bill was proposed by deputies of the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), the conservative party in France. The bill underwent a long-lasting political debate for over a year before being put to a vote. The authority believes that the veil poses a real danger to public safety, while Muslims defend their right to religious freedom.

According to the lawyer of the woman who brought the case, the ban is “inhumane and degrading,” and violates the right of respect to private life, conscience, and religion. The Court dismissed the claim and stated that the law “is not explicitly based on the connotation of religious clothing but solely on the fact that it conceals the face.”

 

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