Spanish politicians urged to reject bans on full-face veils

Amnesty International is calling on law-makers in the Spanish region of Catalonia not to adopt a motion on Wednesday in favour of banning Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights from wearing the full-face veil in public buildings and spaces.

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination in Europe, said:

“Any wide-ranging ban will violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who choose to wear a full-face veil as an expression of their identity or beliefs.   

“Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights should be free to choose what and what not to wear.  This is their right under international human rights law. This right extends to forms of dress that others may find objectionable and it should be respected - for the very small minority of Muslim Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who do choose to wear full-face veils, just as for everybody else.”

With lawmakers in Belgium having approved a ban on the wearing of the full-face veil in public in April this year and the French Parliament due to consider a similar ban in July, Spain has become the third European country this year to consider the introduction of restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils   

Last week, the Senate approved a motion urging the government to prohibit the wearing of full-face veils “in public spaces and at public gatherings”.

Nine Spanish municipalities have already moved to ban the wearing of full-face veils in municipal buildings.  The Mayor of Barcelona has declared his intention to push through legislation banning full-face veils from all municipal buildings, including offices, public markets, libraries and museums, later this year.

Many of those in favour of such bans in Spain have argued that they are necessary to combat discrimination and safeguard gender equality.

John Dalhuisen said:

“Discrimination cannot be combated by discrimination and gender equality is not advanced by dictating what Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights can or cannot wear.  It is advanced by ensuring that Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are empowered to make their own choices and are effectively able to act on them.”

In recent years the Spanish government has put the promotion of gender equality high on the political agenda.

However, Amnesty International has called for greater efforts to combat the discrimination, stereotypes and prejudices affecting Muslim Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, both within their communities and in society at large.

John Dalhuisen said:

“States do have an obligation to protect Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights against pressure or coercion to wear full-face veils but comprehensive bans are not the way to do this. They may even be counter-productive as Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who are currently being coerced into wearing full-face veils risk being confined to their homes, less able to work or study and to access the assistance and protection they need.

“The Spanish authorities should be seeking to ensure that recent initiatives to combat violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are also reaching Muslim Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.”

Under international human rights law, restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and religion may only be imposed where necessary for the preservation of public order, security or morals or the protection of the rights of others.

Amnesty International does not believe that wide-ranging bans on the wearing of full-face veils have been shown to be necessary or proportionate to achieve any of these goals and that considerations of security or public safety would justify banning the wearing of full-face veils anywhere in public, or in all public buildings.   

John Dalhuisen said:

“Legitimate security concerns can be met by targeted restrictions on the complete covering of the face in well-defined high risk locations. Individuals may also be required to reveal their faces when objectively necessary, for instance for identity checks.”

Last week, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly adopted a recommendation calling on states “not to establish a general ban of the full veiling or other religious or special clothing, but to protect Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights from all physical and psychological duress as well as their free choice to wear religious or special clothing and ensure equal opportunities for Muslim Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights to participate in public life and pursue education and professional activities”.

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