Target: President of the European Court of Human Rights, Dean Spielmann
Goal: Demand that women be allowed to wear full-faced veils in public places
In a decision that ended a years-long ongoing debate, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that France’s ban on wearing the full-faced veil is perfectly legal. Mandating that women dress or do not dress in a certain way violates their religious freedom and bodily autonomy. Urge the European Court to revisit its oppressive decision.
The decision comes four years after France banned women from wearing full-faced veils, whose iterations include the burqa or niqab, in public spaces. To do so risks incurring a fine of 150 Euros. One 24-year-old French Muslim woman, S.A.S., challenged the discriminatory French law, bringing it before the European Court. Although the law blatantly goes against the freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, the Court ultimately upheld the French ban, stating that the “barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face in public could undermine the notion of ‘living together.'”
Historically, many Muslim-majority countries and communities have promoted or enforced wearing the niqab to protect women’s “modesty.” Although few countries now officially require women to cover their faces while in public, more and more European countries are criminalizing the practice all together, saying that it subjugates women. Many modern Muslim women such as S.A.S., however, state that they are not forced or pressured to wear the veil by their husbands or religious communities, but decide to do so for their own reasons. S.A.S. explains that she “wished to be able to wear it when she chose to do so…to feel at inner peace with herself.”
Whether women are forced to wear the veil in public places or forced to take it off, the motivation and the outcome are the same: Policing women’s bodies in order to protect their “modesty,” save them from so-called subjugation, or protect others from social discomfort takes away women’s agency. Either way, it needs to stop.
Demand that the European Court of Human Rights reverse this discriminatory and dictatorial decision and let women make their own choices about their public appearance.
Dear President Spielmann,
I was shocked by the European Court of Human Rights’ decision to uphold France’s ban on wearing the full-faced veil in public places. As a judiciary body formed for the sole purpose of protecting human rights and liberties, your job is to root out discriminatory practices, not to endorse them. Please reverse this decision and restore bodily autonomy to French women.
One of the most difficult parts of living in a democratic society is maintaining peaceful coexistence despite all of the diverse beliefs, views, and lifestyles that inhabit our rather close quarters. How will democratic societies continue to grow in freedom and acceptance of difference if certain segments of its population are forced to hide integral parts of themselves? Women who choose to wear the full-faced veil in France are not forcing their views or behaviors on others; they simply desire to express their personal devotion and live in accordance with their beliefs.
Just as any law that forces women to wear a niqab is oppressive, any law that prohibits it is similarly oppressive. A government that imposes its values on women and restricts their behavior is by definition anti-feminist and anti-human rights.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: flat.luxury via Flickr