Geneva: The United Nations in a landmark ruling Tuesday said banning Muslim women from wearing Hijab or Niqab, full face veil, in public places is an infringement of human rights.
The UN’s human rights committee said it had upheld two complaints made against the French government’s policy of fining women for wearing full-face veils after determining it violated their individual rights.
The complaints were made in 2016 by two French women who were convicted four years ago of obscuring their face in public by wearing a veil.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) further said that the ban disproportionately harmed the women’s right to exercise their religious beliefs.
“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,” UNHRC Chair Yuval Shany said.
“Rather, the decisions represented the position of the committee that a general criminal ban did not allow for a reasonable balance between public interests and individual rights.”
France had argued the ban was necessary and proportionate from a security point of view, as well as to achieve the societal goal of “living together”.
The committee however ruled that a general ban on the niqab was unnecessary for this purpose and rather than protecting fully veiled women, could leave them isolated by “confining them to their homes”.
The European Court of Human Rights had in 2014 rejected a claim by a young Muslim woman that French ban on Hijab violated her rights.
Denmark and the Netherlands have passed similar bans on face-covering garments since the French law came into effect, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for legislation to do the same.
A further ban on the burkini, a full-length swimsuit worn by some Muslim women, in the French city of Nice was however overturned by a regional court after attracting criticism worldwide.
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