Swiss parliament approves ban on full-face coverings like burqas, and sets fine for violators

The move follows a nationwide referendum two years ago in which Swiss voters narrowly approved forbidding niqabs, which leave slits for the eyes, and burqas as well as ski masks and bandannas that are worn by some protesters

September 21, 2023 07:54 pm | Updated 08:34 pm IST - GENEVA

File image used for representational purpose only.

File image used for representational purpose only. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Lower House of Switzerland's parliament voted on Wednesday to give final legislative approval to a ban on face coverings, such as the burqas worn by some Muslim women.

The National Council voted 151-29 for the legislation, which was already approved by the Upper House. It was pushed through by the right-wing, populist Swiss People's Party, easily overcoming reticence expressed by centrists and the Greens.

The move follows a nationwide referendum two years ago in which Swiss voters narrowly approved forbidding niqabs, which leave slits for the eyes, and burqas as well as ski masks and bandannas that are worn by some protesters.

With the Lower House vote, Parliament cemented the ban into federal law and set a fine of up to 1,000 francs (about $1,100) for violators.

The measure prohibits covering the nose, mouth and eyes in both public spaces and private buildings accessible to the public, though it does allow for some exceptions.

Few women in Switzerland wear full face coverings like burqas, which are perhaps best known as garb worn in Afghanistan.

Two Swiss cantons — southern Ticino and northern St. Gallen — already have similar laws. The national legislation will put Switzerland in line with countries such as Belgium and France that have enacted similar measures.

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