Switzerland bans the burqa and appearing in public places with a covered face will soon be punished by law. This was established by a referendum held today in the Swiss Confederation which, with a net result even if not very clear, prohibits the use of the full Islamic veil. The famous “sentence” is due to the game of destiny on the eve of Women’s Day on March 8th. The bill, promoted by the nationalist right-wing parties, was approved by 51.2% by consensus and in 20 of the 26 provinces: in the popular consultations, this double affirmation is always necessary for the result to be valid. In this way, the line expressed by the government and parliament who called for rejecting the initiative is rejected. With today’s vote, Bern is siding with other European countries (for example France and Austria) that already ban wearing the burqa in public places.
In Ticino, register membership
When the ballot count nears completion, the result is decisive: The front of those opposed to the use of the burqa (as well as the niqab, that is, the garment that leaves the eyes only exposed) stems from justice. The unified vote that Botta Massena had in canton Ticino (60.5%) where a regional law already bans Muslim women from wearing full headscarves in public, and the lowest percentage in Basel (40.6%).
The title Popular Consultation did not explicitly cite religious reasons (the exact definition was actually “against concealing the face”), but during the election campaign the promoters did not hide that this was the real driving force behind the initiative. In their view, the burqa is a symbol of women’s submission in contradiction to constitutional values, civil coexistence, legal certainty, and gender equality. Hence the wording of the proposal, which contained in its original text also some exceptions: the face could remain hidden for safety or health reasons, or on the occasion of the carnival.
As mentioned, the government and parliament have said they are against this law: given the small number of women who adhere to the practice, they consider it excessive. Hence, the reference was to delegate any bans to individual cantons. According to federal institutions, a nationwide taxation would have harmed tourism and increased the isolation of women who are forced to appear in public with their faces covered.
Not even minarets
Today’s referendum is the second affecting the practice of Islam in Switzerland: In November 2009, another public consultation introduced by law a ban on building minarets. The approval exceeded 57% of the electorate. Then, as today, it was an initiative of more symbolic value than substance: Switzerland currently has only three minarets, which remained in place after the response to that vote.
March 7, 2021 (Change to March 7, 2021 | 6:37 PM)
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