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Religion: Persons belonging to minorities face legal and practical obstacles in exercising or manifesting their religion or belief?

Key Area:
Public Life, Culture, Sport & Media
Discrimination, Equality
10/01/2012 - 17:21
Short Answer


Qualitative Info


The recent law banning the wearing of full-face veil in public, adopted on 14 September 2010, applies to “any person wearing in public space clothes aimed at hiding his or her face”. But in practice it targets Muslims as a religious minority. In spite of the opinions delivered by the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) and by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), both of which reminded that the wearing of the full veil was a very minor phenomenon in France (about 2,000 women would be affected) and both of which were against a general ban, the adopted law defines public space very broadly, including not just government buildings and public transport, but all streets, markets and thoroughfares, as well as all places open to the public such as entertainment venues. Any person defying the ban will be fined with €150 and/or follow a course of citizenship lessons, and any person forcing another to go veiled would be fined €30,000 and serve up to 1-year jail term (€60,000 and 2-year if the veiled person is a minor). The law was reviewed by the Constitutional Council, which confirmed its legality and specified that "prohibiting the concealing of the face in public cannot, without adversely affecting Article 10 of the Declaration, result in restricting the exercising of religious freedom in places of worship open to the public". The law provides for a six-month period of "education" to explain to women already wearing a full veil that they face a fine if they continue to do so in any public space. Even though human rights organizations, as well as the above-mentioned institutions, brought to the attention the risk that this law unfairly stigmatised a vulnerable group, the ban enjoys a broad popular support, some 65-70 per cent of respondents in France positioning themselves in favour.

70 % according to a Financial Times-Harris poll conducted in February 2010 (See J. Blitz, “Poll shows support in Europe for burka ban”, Financial Times, 1 March 2010, <>); 64% according to a poll conducted in April 2010 by the French polling institute Sofres (detailed results available at <>).



Groups affected/interested Muslims
Type (R/D) Islamophobia
Key socio-economic / Institutional Areas Religion
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