To Ban The Niqab Or Not? Switzerland To Hold Controversial Referendum On 7th March
Polls already show that more than 60% of Swiss voters favor the burqa ban.
On the 7th of March, Switzerland will hold a referendum to decide whether to ban full facial coverings such as burqas and niqabs.
Polls show that more than 60% of Swiss voters favor the burqa ban.
The Swiss cantons of Ticino and St. Gallen have already banned full-face coverings in regional votes.
Interestingly, the Swiss government has urged voters to reject the referendum, saying the move would hurt tourism.
“Only a few people in Switzerland wear a full facial covering,” the government said in a statement.
“A countrywide ban would undermine the sovereignty of the cantons, hurt tourism, and be unhelpful for certain groups of women,” it said.
The majority of women who wear full facial coverings are tourists and they only spend a brief time in the state, the statement added.
Under Switzerland’s political system of direct democracy, any proposal to alter the constitution goes to a popular vote if advocates raise more than 100,000 signatures.
Montreux and other destinations around Lake Geneva and Interlaken in central Switzerland traditionally attract some Muslim tourists, mainly from the Gulf Arab states.
Switzerland’s proposal also forbids coercing somebody to wear a facial covering based on their gender.
The grouping behind the scheme – the “Egerkinger Komitee”, which includes members of the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP) – was also behind the move to ban minarets.
In 2009, the Swiss voters supported a proposal to ban new minarets’ construction, approved by nearly 60% of voters.
The supporters of the 2009 proposal saw the minarets as foreign to Swiss traditions and values.
Muslims make up about 5% of Switzerland’s 8.6 million people, official statistics show.
The Swiss government has made a counterproposal to the facial covering ban that would be implemented if voters reject the initial proposal on the 7th of March.
This would require Muslim women wearing a facial covering to reveal their face if required for identification at public transport or administrative offices.
Elsewhere, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Latvia, Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium, the Republic of the Congo, Chad, Gabon, and Sri Lanka all have laws prohibiting religious face coverings.
Ironically, the vote will take place on the eve of International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, which strives for gender equality worldwide. Removing a woman’s right to wear a face veil is not equality.
What are your views on this? Share with us in the comments below.