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Spanish Politicians Urged to Reject Bans on Full-Face Veils

LONDON - Amnesty International is calling on law-makers in the Spanish region of
Catalonia not to adopt a motion on Wednesday in favour of banning women
from wearing the full-face veil in public buildings and spaces.

wide-ranging ban will violate the rights to freedom of expression and
religion of those women who choose to wear a full-face veil as an
expression of their identity or beliefs,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty
International’s expert on discrimination in Europe. 

should be free to choose what and what not to wear.  This is their right
under international human rights law. This right extends to forms of
dress that others may find objectionable and it should be respected -
for the very small minority of Muslim women who do choose to wear full
face veils, just as for everybody else.”

With Lawmakers in
Belgium having approved a ban on the wearing of the full-face veil in
public in April this year and the French Parliament due to consider a
similar ban in July, Spain has become the third European country this
year to consider the introduction of restrictions on the wearing of
full-face veils 

Last week, the Senate approved a motion urging
the government to prohibit the wearing of full face veils “in public
spaces and at public gatherings”.

Nine Spanish municipalities
have already moved to ban the wearing of full face veils in municipal
buildings.  The Mayor of Barcelona has declared his intention to push
through legislation banning full face veils from all municipal
buildings, including offices, public markets, libraries and museums,
later this year.

Many of those in favour of such bans in Spain
have argued that they are necessary to combat discrimination and
safeguard gender equality.

“Discrimination cannot be combated by
discrimination and gender equality is not advanced by dictating what
women can or cannot wear.  It is advanced by ensuring that women are
empowered to make their own choices and are effectively able to act on
them,” said John Dalhuisen.

In recent years the Spanish
government has put the promotion of gender equality high on the
political agenda.

However, Amnesty International has called for
greater efforts to combat the discrimination, stereotypes and prejudices
affecting Muslim women, both within their communities and in society at

“States do have an obligation to protect women against
pressure or coercion to wear full-face veils but comprehensive bans are
not the way to do this. They may even be counter-productive as women who
are currently being coerced into wearing full face veils risk being
confined to their homes, less able to work or study and to access the
assistance and protection they need,” John Dalhuisen said.

Spanish authorities should be seeking to ensure that recent initiatives
to combat violence against women are also reaching Muslim women.”

international human rights law, restrictions on the rights to freedom
of expression and religion may only be imposed where necessary for the
preservation of public order, security or morals or the protection of
the rights of others.

Amnesty International does not believe
that wide-ranging bans on the wearing of full face veils have been shown
to be necessary or proportionate to achieve any of these goals and that
considerations of security or public safety would justify banning the
wearing of full-face veils anywhere in public, or in all public

“Legitimate security concerns can be met by targeted
restrictions on the complete covering of the face in well-defined high
risk locations. Individuals may also be required to reveal their faces
when objectively necessary, for instance for identity checks,” said John

Last week, the Council of Europe Parliamentary
Assembly adopted a recommendation calling on states “not to establish a
general ban of the full veiling or other religious or special clothing,
but to protect women from all physical and psychological duress as well
as their free choice to wear religious or special clothing and ensure
equal opportunities for Muslim women to participate in public life and
pursue education and professional activities”.


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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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