The United Nations Human Rights Council has said France’s face veil ban is a violation of women’s rights, as it called for a review of the “sweeping” legislation. The body found that the French law, passed in 2010, violated the rights of two French women, who were fined in 2012 for concealing their faces in public. They had filed a complaint in 2016.
“The Committee found that the general criminal ban on the wearing of the niqab in public introduced by the French law disproportionately harmed the petitioners’ right to manifest their religious beliefs, and that France had not adequately explained why it was necessary to prohibit this clothing,” the UN experts said in a statement.
“The ban, rather than protecting fully-veiled women, could have the opposite effect of confining them to their homes, impeding their access to public services and marginalizing them,” the statement added. Meanwhile, Yuval Shany, committee chairman, stressed that “the decisions are not directed against the notion of secularity, nor are they an endorsement of a custom which many on the Committee, including myself, regard as a form of oppression of women.”
There was, however, disagreement within the Committee. Yadh Ben Achour, a Tunisian jurist member, published a dissenting opinion in favor of the French State. He insisted on “the threat to public security” posed by the veil, which to him seemed “obvious, in a time of fighting terrorists, some of whom have carried out attacks or killings in France and elsewhere by disguising themselves with niqabs.”
Reacting to the UN’s findings, army generalLet’s stop tolerating a forbidden dress practice, notably the niqab and the burqa, for reasons that reflect a certain conception of women, respect for the law and security requirements. These clothes have no religious basis and are above all a provocation… And we should not be impressed by the statements of the UN Human Rights Committee on the wearing of the burqa. The interventionism of certain committees of experts in the internal life of states is intolerable…French people, sometimes themselves of immigrant origin, already feel alien in their own country.”
Nicolas Bay, European Deputy of the National Rally, commented on the Committee’s finding as well: “It’s shocking me, it’s complete interference. France has control of its legislation and we see today that the law on the burqa is not applied…It is clear here that the rights of women are completely forgotten.”
“There are places in France where the law on wearing the full veil is so little applied that the most wanted man in France feels safe when he is covered by a forbidden garment” said Bruno Retailleau, president of the Republicans (LR) in the Senate, reacting to the finding.