Hijab Ban: What Does International Law Say About Hijab Ban?

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Hijab ban: “Burqa bans are incompatible with international law safeguards of the right to manifest one’s religion or belief and of freedom of speech”.: UN Special Rapporteur.

Hijab Ban: What Does International Law Say About Hijab Ban?
Representational illustratoin (Credit: mashable.com)

We have already witnessed various countries imposing ban on Hijab whether full or partial outcrying national security and transparency in public. Countries with anti-Muslim stance have been imposing ban on the Hijab, Niqab or Burqa for various reasons and in that line, Indian state of Karnataka have paved a way for other Indian states to follow the suit.

Many countries have seen the Hijab as tool of oppressing women, hence imposed a blanket ban on it. But what does the international law say about donning religious attire?

Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees freedom of religion and belief. Under the ICCPR, “the observation and practice of religion or belief may encompass not only ceremonial activities, but also such practices as the wearing of unique attire or head coverings,” according to the UN Human Rights Committee. 

According to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Article 18 is not confined in its applicability to traditional faiths or religions and beliefs having institutional characteristics and hence must be interpreted widely.

read more: Hijab Ban: Karnataka High Court Upheld Ban on Hijab on These Three Basis

Any restriction on religious freedom must be nondiscriminatory and essential and proportional to maintain public safety, order, health, or morality, or the basic rights and freedoms of others, as per ICCPR article 18(3).

“Burqa bans are incompatible with international law safeguards of the right to manifest one’s religion or belief and of freedom of speech,” according to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, according to Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The UN Human Rights Committee notes that a blanket ban on face coverings and burqas is discriminatory and incompatible with international law and human rights norms. The committee goes on to say that the prohibition is out of proportion to its claimed legitimate aim of public safety.


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