French niqab ban on women wearing Islamic veils is a violation of human rights, says United Nations



The UN said today that France’s ban on the niqab – the Islamic veil that conceals the face – is a violation of human rights.

France had not advocated for its ban, the committee said, and gave it 180 days to report and say what action it had taken.


Islamic veils such as the niqab are increasingly common in EuropeCredit: Getty Images

He said: “In particular, the Committee was not convinced by France’s assertion that a ban on covering the face was necessary and proportionate from a security point of view or to achieve the objective of “living together” in society “.

Decisions made by the committee, a group of independent experts who oversee compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), are not legally binding.

But under an optional protocol to the treaty, France has an international legal obligation to comply “in good faith”.

The conclusions of the commission follow the complaints of two French women convicted in 2012 under a law of 2010 stipulating that “No one may, in a public space, wear clothing intended to conceal the face”.

    A burqa is a head-to-toe blanket with a net over the eyes


A burqa is a head-to-toe blanket with a net over the eyesCredit: Getty Images

What is the difference between a burqa and a niqab?

  • A burqa is the most concealing of all Islamic veils and often leaves only a mesh screen to see through.
  • The niqab is a facial veil that leaves the eye area clear.
  • It is worn with a scarf and can be worn with a separate eye veil.
  • There are several types of Islamic scarves that do not cover the face, including the hijab.
  • Veils are typically worn with an abaya – a form of robe that conceals most of the body.

The Committee said the ban disproportionately infringed their right to practice their religious beliefs and could lead to them being confined to their homes and marginalized.

She also ordered France to pay compensation to the two women.

Committee chairman Yuval Shany said the findings were not an endorsement of the full-face veil and that he and several other members of the 18-member panel saw it as a form of oppression.

Prime Minister Theresa May ruled out a burqa ban in the UK in 2017 when questioned during a PMQ session, saying the move would be “divisive”.

France, like many other European countries, has shown a less open approach.

    A woman swims off the French coast in a burkini - banned in some French cities


A woman swims off the French coast in a burkini – banned in some French citiesCredit: Reuters

In 2004, the French parliament banned all religious symbols in public schools, including the face veil.

A 2010 law prohibits faces from being covered in public, including veils and balaclavas.

The issues with face veils have proven to be a central test for the candidates vying for the French presidency.

The main candidates in the previous elections, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front and François Villon of the center-right Republicans, have pledged to strengthen the application of the ban on wearing the veil.

In the summer, French coastal towns have banned women from wearing Islamic-compliant “burkinis” on public beaches.

Denmark becomes last European country to ban burqa and niqab

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