Parliament calls on voters to reject Swiss-wide burka ban

Two Swiss cantons have already voted to ban full face-covering headgear. © Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Parliament has recommended that voters reject a popular initiative calling for a nationwide ban on face-covering headgear. Both chambers agree that it should be left to cantons to decide on the matter.

This content was published on June 17, 2020 - 19:15

On Wednesday the House of Representatives voted to back a counter-proposal drawn up by the government last year. This would continue with the status quo of cantons setting their own rules on burkas and niqabs but with the concession that people should be obliged to show their faces for identity checks across the country.

Two cantons, Ticino and St Gallen, have already voted to apply a ban on full face coverings.

Parliamentarians on Wednesday argued that existing laws were sufficient to protect women from being forced to cover their faces in public.

The initiative, backed by rightwing political parties, gathered enough votes in 2017 to trigger a referendum. Sponsors of the initiative argue that Switzerland should do more to combat “islamisation” and safeguard public security. 

The text of the initiative provides exemptions for reasons of safety, health, climate conditions and to abide by local customs.

No date has yet been set for the vote, but it is likely to take place next year.

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