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Government finalises plan to counter burka ban proposal

Regions with many visitors from Arab countries would bear the brunt of a nationwide face-covering ban in Switzerland. Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi

The Swiss government has presented its plans for a legal amendment to prevent a nationwide ban on face-covering headgear, proposed by a rightwing people’s initiative.

This content was published on March 15, 2019 - 16:03
swissinfo.ch/urs

Under the proposal, a person must show his or her face for identity checks by customs, transport, immigration and social security authorities.

However, the government has reaffirmed its opposition to a people’s initiative aimed at a nationwide ban on wearing a burka or niqab, as well as other forms of facial coverings.

In a statement published on Friday, the government reiterates it is up to the cantonal authorities to legislate on the issue, notably regions which attract tourists from Muslim countries.

Two of the country’s 26 cantons, Ticino and St Gallen, have introduced burka bans at a local level, while others rejected similar proposals.

Coercion

The necessary signatures for a nationwide vote were submitted in September 2017 and the government announced its opposition and plans for a counter-proposal in December. These proposals were sent out to consultation in June 2018.

In response to negative feedback from parties, cantons, organisations and institutions, the government has now dropped a proposed clause which would punish people who force another person to wear a burka or niqab.

The government said such coercion was not tolerable but existing laws already allowed legal action.

Some women also choose to wear a burka or a niqab voluntarily, the statement adds.

Parliament is still to discuss the initiative and the government’s counter-proposals before a date is set for a nationwide vote.

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