Voters in the eastern Swiss canton of Glarus will decide whether to ban the wearing of face coverings in public, similar to the successful initiative in canton Ticino. The move would effectively outlaw burkas and niqabs.
On Wednesday the Glarus parliament approved a proposal, supported only by members of the conservative right Swiss People’s Party.
The cantonal government, which opposed the proposal, must now prepare a bill on banning face coverings. It will be put to the local open-air assembly, in which all citizens in the canton can take part. This vote will probably take place in May 2017.
The request had been put forward by one citizen, as is possible in two small Swiss cantons: Glarus and Appenzell Inner Rhoden. It is based on the text of an initiative that was approved by two-thirds of voters in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino in September 2013.
In its judgement, the Glarus government acknowledged that proportionality had also played a role in its decision. “There aren’t dozens of burka-clad women going around the canton. Neither are hooligans or anarchist extremists a problem at sporting events,” it said.
In September 2013, voters in Ticino approved a proposal to what has been dubbed a “burka ban”. The cantonal parliament gave the new law the green light last month.
The ban has been problematic to implement, however. The local parliament has agreed to create different laws that separate the regulation of burkas and niqabsexternal link from full-face helmets or face scarves worn at demonstrations or sporting events. The law on burkas and niqabs also includes provisions aimed at promoting integration and social interaction.
Violation of the potential new law on face-coverings could incur a fine of CHF100-CHF10,000 ($101-$10,100).
The tourism industry in Ticino has been fearful of the repercussions on their business. The local government still has to schedule when the law will come into force.
A group of rightwing politicians are currently campaigning for a nationwide vote on a ban on burkas and niqabs across Switzerland.
swissinfo.ch and agencies