02 Oct 2017

New law regulates how much face Muslim women must show

How is telling someone to wear less or different clothing any better than telling them to wear more?

Julia Sahlender
Julia Sahlender Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
New law regulates how much face Muslim women must show - NewsMavens
Woman wearing a niqab. Photo: Steve Evans/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Why this story matters:

From October 1, 2017, women are no longer allowed to dress how they want to in Austria. This might sound unlikely, but that’s exactly what has happened.

There’s a new ban on face coverings. While the new law applies to all different kinds of masks, disguises and, under some circumstances, even scarves, experts agree that it is, and always has been, targetted towards Muslim women and their face coverings.

While the law does not forbid women from wearing a headscarf or hijab in public, it does practically prohibit them from wearing a burqa or a niqab, as these cover up the woman’s face. If someone is seen in wearing this or any other kind of face covering in public they will be asked to remove it or be fined 150 Euros.

Now, the politicians in favor of this new law are saying that they only want to help women and free them from their perceived suppression, but how is telling someone to wear less or different clothing any better than telling them to wear more?

A lot of people on social media and in online comments also argue that this law will help the women who have to wear these types of clothing against their will. But that’s where they’re wrong.

I just can’t imagine that someone who would force his wife, daughter or sister to wear a face covering in public -- because it is their fundamental conviction -- would let go of those beliefs to comply with this new law. Instead, my fear is that they won't be allowed to leave their homes at all and will disappear from public view and Austrian society entirely.

Lawyers and legal experts are also criticising the new law for being an intrusion on civil rights. The fact that the law was put into action only two weeks before a nationwide election also makes you think that the liberation of women might not be the sole motivation behind it.

Details from the story:

  • Law against face coverings becomes effective on October 1st, 2017
  • There are some exemptions to the new law
  • Similar laws are already in place in other European countries
  • Experts disagree with the law
  • Could also have negative impact on tourism from Middle Eastern countries
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