Ban on face coverings, UN human rights office slams Swiss govt

March 9, 2021
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Switzerland’s vote to ban face coverings, including the full-body or full-face veils worn by some Muslim women, violate human rights, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Tuesday.

“Switzerland is joining the small number of countries where actively discriminating against Muslim women is now sanctioned by law,’’ OHCHR spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said.

“And this is deeply regrettable,’’ Shamdasani added.

Around 51.2 per cent of Swiss people on Sunday voted in favour of the ban, which targets women wearing a burqa, covering the whole body, or a niqab, covering the face.

While on paper the ban applies to face coverings in general, it was put forward by a right-wing, anti-Islam group that’s made no secret of its stance, the federal government campaigned against the ban.

Similar bans exist in Austria, the Netherlands and France.

“Women should not be forced to cover their faces,’’ Shamdasani said.

“At the same time, the legal ban on face-coverings will unduly restrict women’s freedom to manifest their religion or beliefs and has a broader impact on their human rights.’’

According to law, such freedoms may only be constrained to protect public safety, health, morals or the fundamental rights of other.

“Vague justifications on how the wearing of face coverings would be a threat to safety, health or the rights of others cannot be considered a legitimate reason for such an invasive restriction of fundamental freedoms,’’ she added.

She also said that in cases where women were actually being forced to wear the veil against their will, the ban would punish them for something outside their control, and marginalise them further.

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