GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Committee yesterday criticised France’s so-called burqa ban, saying the law violated the rights of two women who were fined for wearing full-face veils in public. The committee called for the women to be compensated and for a review of the 2010 law that forbids people from publicly wearing clothing that conceals their face.
“The French law disproportionately harmed the petitioners’ right to manifest their religious beliefs,” the committee said in a statement. It added that it was not convinced by France’s claim that the ban was necessary for security and social reasons. The two French women were convicted in 2012 for wearing the niqab, a veil with an opening for the eyes.
“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 marginalising them,” the committee said.
The UN Human Rights Committee, made up of independent experts, ensures countries stick to their human rights commitments but it does not have enforcement powers.
It said the French ban was too sweeping but that governments could still make people show their faces in specific circumstances. The committee’s decision reignites a debate that has raged in France for years over Muslim headwear and other religious clothing. The debate has regularly pitted supporters of the country’s secular constitution against those who argue for religious freedoms. —Agencies