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Rulings anywhere that women must wear the burqa should be condemned - but banning such dresses here would be wrong
by Thomas Hammarberg
Prohibition of the burqa and the niqab would not liberate oppressed women, but might instead lead to their further alienation in European societies. A general ban on such attires would constitute an ill-advised invasion of individual privacy. Depending on its precise terms, a prohibition also raises serious questions about whether such legislation would be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Two rights in the Convention are particularly relevant. One is the right to respect for one's private life and personal identity (Article 8). The other is the freedom to manifest one's religion or belief "in worship, teaching, practice and observance" (Article 9).
Both articles specify that these human rights can only be subject to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are notably necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
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