On Wednesday, September 20, the Lower House of Parliament in Switzerland passed legislation to ban burqa (Islamic veil) in the country. Following the passage of the legislation, covering one’s face with a burqa has become illegal and wearing it would attract a fine of 1000 Swiss Francs which is around Rs 83,000.
The legislation was adopted by the National Council with a vote of 151-29. It had already been approved by the upper house. It was easily passed by the Swiss People’s Party, despite reservations expressed by centrists and the Greens.
The legislation comes after a nationwide referendum in 2021 in which Swiss voters approved prohibiting niqabs, that leave slits for the eyes, burqas, ski masks, and bandanas.
The proposal to ban face veils in public was passed in a referendum in 2021. The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) members who constitute the Egerkinger Komitee, which organised “resistance against the claims to power of political Islam in Switzerland”, were behind the initiative to outlaw the burqa.
Contending that “free people show their faces” and “the burqa and niqab are not normal clothes,” the group amassed the necessary 100,000 petition signatures in 2017 to push a referendum on the issue. 51.2% of Swiss voters approved the proposed ban.
The law bans concealing the nose, mouth, and eyes in both public and private buildings that are open to the public, with limited exceptions.
Notably, similar regulations already exist in two Swiss cantons: southern Ticino and northern St. Gallen. Switzerland’s national legislation will bring it in line with countries such as Belgium and France, who have implemented similar legislation.