Switzerland passes ban on public full-face coverings like burqas, niqabs

A controversial referendum in Switzerland to ban full-face covers like the burqa and niqab narrowly passed over the weekend by 51.21% of voters.

Critics, such as Amnesty International’s Switzerland office, are already branding the ban as “needlessly” divisive.

“After the vote to ban minarets, Swiss voters have once again approved an initiative that discriminates against one religious community in particular, needlessly fueling division and fear,” Cyrielle Huguenot, head of women’s rights at Amnesty International’s Switzerland office, said in a statement, ABC News reported. “The ban on the full-face veil cannot be viewed as a measure that liberates women. On the contrary, it is a dangerous and symbolic policy that violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion.”

The new rules do allow for exceptions at religious sites (e.g., mosques) and during certain celebrations.

Masks used for health reasons are also permitted, although ski masks and bandanas are not permitted in restaurants, shops, sports stadiums, on public transportation or even on the street, the network added.

“We call on the elected politicians and government to unequivocally support the fundamental rights of the country’s religious minorities and to commit to peaceful coexistence,” Ms. Huguenot said. “The authorities must take action to ensure that the ban on the full veil does not marginalize the women in question or exclude them from the public space.”

A fully detailed draft of the legislation must be written within two years by Swiss lawmakers, ABC reported.

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