The Switzerland Greens believe that the national initiative to ban face coverings in public spaces will reinforce anti-muslim sentiments and exclusion rather than promote equality between men and women

Swiss citizens will head to the polls on March 7 to vote on three different policies. One of them is a popular initiative presented by the ‘Egerkingen’ Committee, a body associated with the right-wing party of Switzerland. The initiative would ban integral face coverings (namely burqas and niqabs) from being worn in all public spaces across the country.

Missing the Mark

The Greens argue that this initiative is “an anti-muslim crusade under the banner of equality” because it aims at taking away the right from Muslim women to wear burqas and niqabs as a religious practice. There are exceptions in the initiative that allow for such religious wear to be worn at places of worship but they would be forbidden in any public spaces such as libraries, restaurants, parks, and public streets.

In their publication, the Greens ask the government to think about better ways to forward equality in Switzerland. Rather than voting on issues that affect a low proportion of the Swiss population, the Greens believe that policies that address the salary gap or domestic violence would be more in tune with Switzerland’s political realities.

“Women are being instrumentalized to reinforce muslim stereotypes, stir up fear against Islam, and weaken the fundamental rights of the foreign population”

– Les Verts Suisses

Too Much For Too Little

The Federal Council and the Parliament of Switzerland back the opposition against this popular initiative. They believe the initiative in itself threatens the sovereignty of the Cantons that have already voted on similar issues. For example, the Cantons of Tessin and St. Gall have already established bans on face coverings, while the Cantons of Zurich, Glarus, and Solothurn have voted against this initiative.

They add that the overarching nature of the law is unnecessary due to the low proportion of the population that it would target, which comes mainly in the form of tourists.

The Swiss government sees this initiative as non-essential and propose a counter-policy should the Swiss voters reject the face covering ban on March 7th. This alternative would allow public officials to identify anyone with an integral face covering for security purposes should the occasion arise.

Direct Democracy in Action

This popular initiative is presented to the Swiss citizens following a campaign by the ‘Egerkingen’ committee that collected more than 100 000 signatures. Any popular initiative that succeeds in collecting 100 000 signatures is nationally voted on as per the Swiss constitution.

Luis Alvarez

Luis graduated from McGill University with a B.A. in International Development and a minor in Communications. He was born in Mexico and immigrated to Canada when he was nine years old. He is passionate about the environment and about effective ways to collectively address the issue of climate change. In his free time, Luis likes to travel across Canada to hike and discover its beautiful sceneries.

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