Switzerland votes to ban full face veils in public places

By banning this garment from the public space, Switzerland joins France, Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium and Denmark.

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A strong signal against radical Islam for its supporters. A xenophobic and sexist initiative for its detractors. The Swiss voted on Sunday March 7 by a narrow majority in favor of the ban on hiding the face in public places. The text, which targets the few women who wear the burqa or niqab in the country, obtained 51.21% of the vote and a majority of cantons, according to official results released by the federal government.

The text does not mention the burqa, the niqab, or the full veil. But the campaign posters left no doubt as to the intention. “Stop radical Islamism” or “Stop extremism”, we could read on the posters which showed women veiled in black. Initially proposed by the right-wing populist party UDC, the initiative was supported by feminists and part of the voters of the secular left. The federal government and parliament opposed the measure, arguing that the initiative addresses a problem that does not exist.

With this victory of the yes of a short head, it becomes forbidden to completely cover the face in public in Switzerland. However, exceptions are foreseen, for places of worship for example. Hooligans or demonstrators will also be prohibited from wearing hoods. By thus banning the full-face veil, Switzerland joins, after years of debate, France, Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium and Denmark. In 2009, the Swiss voted to ban the construction of minarets on mosques, provoking anger in Muslim countries and the approval of European nationalist parties.

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