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Burqa ban counter-proposal: Swiss government wants tougher rules on face coverings

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Burqa ban counter-proposal: Swiss government wants tougher rules on face coverings
File photo: Depositphotos
22:41 CET+01:00
The Swiss government has rejected a nationwide burqa ban but hopes to introduce a new law that would make it illegal for people to refuse to uncover their face when asked to do so by government officials, transport staff or privately-contracted ticket inspectors.

Under the plans, anyone who repeatedly refused to show their face to government officials working in sectors including migration, customs or social security, or to rail and aviation transport workers could be hit with a fine.

Burqas and niqabs are not specifically mentioned in the draft law, which refers to face coverings. However, Muslim women wearing these garments would also liable to a financial penalty if they did not show their face when asked to do so.

The government’s proposal still needs to be discussed by the Swiss parliament.

The draft law comes in response to a popular initiative calling for a nationwide ban on face coverings – including burqas and niqabs – in public places. The only exceptions would be for health, safety, weather or cultural reasons.

The initiative was put forward by the so-called Egerkingen committee, which has close links to Switzerland’s right-wing Swiss People’s Party, and which was behind the successful 2009 campaign for a minaret ban in the country.

The committee collected the 100,000 signatures required by Swiss law to trigger a referendum on the issue.

Read also: How Switzerland's direct democracy system works

But the government has rejected a nationwide ban in favour of 'targeted action' on facial coverings.

And now, at the end of the consultation period, the executive has launched a revised counter proposal to the popular initiative on face coverings.

In doing so. it has also restated its position that a nationwide law on the matter would step on the toes of Switzerland’s powerful cantons.

In a statement on Friday, the government stated that if a national ban were in place, cantons could not make their own rules.

It noted that while the cantons of Ticino and St Gallen had introduced bans on face coverings, other cantons such as Zurich and Solothurn had chosen not to do so.

Read also: Swiss region of St Gallen votes overwhelmingly for burqa ban

The government said this was particularly problematic as it would mean cantons could no longer decide how they would deal with burqa and niqab-wearing tourists from Arab countries.

In its statement, the government also noted it has dropped a plan to include an article in its draft law that would have made it illegal to force someone wear a burqa or niqab. It said that laws were already in place which made this punishable by law.

 
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