Thursday, February 25, 2021

Federal votes: A Switzerland without full veil or hooded breakers on March 7?


Freedom, extremism, equality, Islamophobia, oppression, feminism… The lexical field of the debate around the initiative “for the prohibition of hiding the face” is passionate, in both camps. If the ballot boxes reveal a double majority of the people and the cantons on March 7, it will be forbidden to hide the face under a veil, a balaclava or a mask, anywhere in public space and places accessible to the public such as restaurants, stadiums or public transport. Places of worship would benefit from exemptions, and exceptions are provided for health reasons (such as wearing a mask to protect against covid), security reasons, climatic reasons, or even to respect local customs (such as carnivals).

The initiative is nicknamed “anti-burqa”, since its main target are women who wear the full veil (generally the niqab, which leaves the eyes visible, and much more rarely the Afghan burqa). And this, while there are only a few dozen in Switzerland. For supporters of the initiative, however, it is important to send a message, in Switzerland and abroad, against the oppression of women forced to veil. The clothing is pointed out as the symbol of the radicalism of identity of a part of Islam, against which we must fight. In the yes camp, we find mainly the right, in particular the SVP and part of the center, but also some personalities of the left.

Opposite, we find mainly personalities and parties of the left, denouncing a relentlessness against a religious community already often stigmatized. They believe not only that the initiative tackles a false problem, but also that it offers a bad solution: banning a garment would not save the women actually forced to wear it but would risk forcing them to remain hidden. This measure would further perpetuate a patriarchal pattern by dictating to women a dress code, raise feminist movements. And to add that the law already punishes the fact of forcing someone to cover themselves completely.

An indirect counter-project is proposed by the Federal Council and the parliament. It only states that individuals must show their faces in the event of an identity check. This text will come into force if the initiative is refused.





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