Dutch Council of State on ‘burqa ban’

The Dutch Council of State says it should be up to women themselves to decide whether or not to wear garments which cover the face. The highest government advisory body argues that ministers shouldn’t use a general ban to rule out the choice of some women to wear the burqa.

Last Monday, the government sent draft legislation for a ‘burqa ban’ to parliament. The proposal would outlaw the wearing in public of face covering articles such as burqas, full-face helmets and balaclavas.

One of the reasons being put forward by ministers to justify a ban is that the burqa and similar articles of clothing run counter to the equality of the sexes. The council, however, thinks this is something to be judged by individual women themselves.

Another justification given by the government for a ban is that many among the population feel threatened by people who conceal their faces. The council argues though that “subjective feelings of insecurity” are no basis for a general ban on face-covering garments.

The council concludes that a ban will limit the freedom of religion for no good reason. Ministers, on the other hand, have asserted that the measure is needed to preserve public order and security.

RNW, 6 February 2012

Update:  See also “Council of State renews criticism of burqa ban”, Dutch News, 7 February 2012