Monday 4/12/21

Swiss in favour of banning face coverings in referendum vote

Similar bans exist in Austria, the Netherlands and France.

FILED - Women with uncovered faces take part in a protest after The Netherlands approves a limited ban on 'face-covering clothing', this law includes also niqabs and burqas. Photo: Ana Fernandez/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire/dpa
Women take part in a protest after The Netherlands approved a limited ban on 'face-covering clothing.'. Photo: Ana Fernandez/dpa/file photo.

Switzerland will ban the wearing in public of burqas, the full-body covering worn by some Muslim women, and other full-face coverings, after a referendum showed a majority in favour of it.

More than 52% of voters were in favour of the ban.

By Sunday afternoon, 19 out of 22 cantons counted had approved the ban. There are 26 cantons in total.

The result means the ban must now be incorporated into the constitution and will apply in restaurants, shops and in public.

Similar bans exist in Austria, the Netherlands and France.

While on paper, the ban applies to covering one's face in general - which would apply to football hooligans, for example - it was put forward by a right-wing, anti-Islam group that's made no secret of its stance. In 2009, the same group, Egerkingen Committee, pushed through a ban on the building of new minarets through a referendum.

Opponents accuse the group of promoting anti-Islamic xenophobia and only wanting to stir up sentiment against Muslims, arguing that in a free society, such dress codes should not exist.

Freedom of religion

It's estimated that Muslims made up only 5.3 % of the population as of 2018.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2014 that such bans do not violate a person's right to freedom of religion or expression.

Other issues voted on included a law regarding an electronic identity card, which is controversial because private companies are set to offer the card. That proposal was clearly rejected by the Swiss.

A free-trade agreement with Indonesia that reduces tariffs on a certain amount of sustainably produced palm oil, on the other hand, was narrowly approved.