International Affairs · Public Policy

Burqa ban in Ticino

The Swiss Canton of Ticino has recently demanded that their Government should outlaw the wearing of religious attire such as niqabs and burqas, which is worn by Muslim women for religious reasons, on the grounds that such clothes should not be allowed to be worn in public that allows one to disguise oneself. A referendum was held in this regard in which nearly two thirds of the voters cast their votes in favour of a ban, a move which is likely to get reflected in others parts of Europe as well. In the wake of this ban comes the need for an immediate discussion in the federal parliament whose decision is still awaited. This brings to our attention the various aspects which can be contemplated with respect to the issue about wearing of religious attire in public.

Burqa is a popular subject of discourse in the ethno-religious context of the present age but what is often overlooked during any discussion in this regard is that it is not the burqa which should be the subject of our argument on the cause for its prohibition. Instead we should be talking about the various socio-cultural restrictions that are imposed on a woman’s free will to decide what she wants to wear. The society needs to tackle this issue at a deeper level instead of raising demands before the Government that would only go as far as creating more ethnic divisions and addressing the problem at a superficial level. What would the people in Ticino have to say about a woman who, under no mental or physical imposition, decides to wear a burqa by her own free choice? We forget that it may be the incorruptible choice of many a woman to wear it.

Questions need to be raised on behalf of those who are not in a position to will for themselves. Why have we still not taken cognizance of a cultural practice that is steeped in gender bias? Is the interpretation of religious texts being designed in a way that allows for the subjugation of women under men or is it that we are denying to ourselves about the irrelevance of such texts in the context of the present age? Is now not the time for a shift of power from religion to the status of women in society today and if so then how can we personally engage ourselves in bringing about this change? And with regard to the State, should it not come into the picture when there is a question of protecting individual freedom against religious customs as in relation to the use of force, in certain cases, upon women to make them wear something against their wish? Change can never start unless we start asking ourselves the kind of questions to which the answers are most difficult to find.

About the Author

dipayanDipayan Chowdhury

He is a student of Symbiosis Law School in Pune. An optimist at heart with a penchant for public speaking he had decided to join law school out of an intensive interest to make significant contribution in the area of human rights work in the country. He is currently pursuing a diploma in the field of Human Rights Jurisprudence which involves a comprehensive study of the interface between International law and Human rights law. Having been a science student he also holds a special interest in the field of Intellectual Property Rights and particularly in exploring the human rights aspect in it. His other interests include Criminal Justice and Feminist Jurisprudence. An avid dreamer, Dipayan hopes to go a long way in the fight for the realization of his vision and also hopes for the right people to join him in this effort.

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