Switzerland bans the burqa and appearing in public with a covered face will soon be sanctioned by law. This was established by a referendum held today in the Swiss Confederation and which, with a net result, even if not very clear, prohibits the use of the full Islamic veil. The popular “sentence” comes due to a game of fate on the eve of March 8, women’s day. The bill, promoted by the parties of the nationalist right, passed with 51.2% of the consensus and in 20 of the 26 Cantons: in popular consultations this double affirmation is always necessary for the result to be valid. In this way, the line expressed by the government and the Parliament that they had invited to reject the initiative is rejected. With today’s vote, Bern aligns itself with other European states (for example France and Austria) which already prohibit the burqa in public.
In Ticino, record of membership
When the counting of the ballots is close to being completed, the result appears decisive: the front of those opposed to the use of the burqa (but also of the niqab, that is the garment that leaves only the eyes uncovered) springs from a fairly uniform vote that has had its puta massina in Canton Ticino (60.5%) where a regional law already prohibits Muslim women from wearing the full veil in public, and the lowest share in Basel (40.6).
“Symbol of submission”
The title of the popular consultation did not explicitly refer to religious reasons (the exact definition was in fact “against the concealment of the face”) but during the electoral campaign the promoters made no secret that this was the real driving force behind the initiative. In their opinion, the burqa is a symbol of the submission of women incompatible with constitutional values, civil coexistence, legal certainty and gender equality. Hence the formulation of the proposal which in its original text also includes some exceptions: the face can remain hidden for reasons of safety, health or on the occasion of Carnival.
The reasons for the no
As mentioned, the government and parliament had said they were opposed to this law: given the low number of women who adhere to this practice, they considered it excessive. Consequently, the indication was to delegate any prohibitions to the individual cantons. A nationwide taxation, according to federal institutions, would have damaged tourism and increased the isolation of women forced to appear in public with their faces covered.
The no even to minarets
Today’s referendum is the second that affects the practice of Islam in Switzerland: in November 2009 another popular consultation had introduced a ban on building minarets by law. The yeses had exceeded 57% of the voters. Then as today it was an initiative with a more symbolic than substantial value: in Switzerland there are currently only three minarets, which have remained in place after the response of that vote.
March 7, 2021 (change March 7, 2021 | 18:37)