France’s so-called burqa ban has been criticised by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. On October 23 the committee ruled that it “violated” the rights of two women who were fined for wearing full-face veils in public.
The committee called for the women to be compensated and for a review of the 2010 law that forbids people from publicly wearing clothing that conceals their face.
“The French law disproportionately harmed the petitioners’ right to manifest their religious beliefs,” the committee said in a statement.
As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), the committee added it was not convinced by France’s claim that the ban was necessary for security and social reasons.
The two French women were convicted in 2012 for wearing the niqab, a veil with a slit for the eyes.
“The ban, rather than protecting fully veiled women, could have the opposite effect of confining them to their homes, impeding their access to public services and marginalising them,” the committee said.
According to AFP, the French foreign ministry responded to the UN criticism arguing that covering one’s face was “incompatible with the principle of fraternity and the basic values of a democratic and open society”.
The ministry noted that the European Court of Human Rights had found the ban did not violate niqab wearers’ religious freedom, and said it would argue its position in a report to the UN committee on the law.