On the 31st of March, the French Senate decided that girls under 18 years old and students cannot wear hijab in public places (so far they were not allowed hijabs only in schools). The amendment is part of the project "séparatisme" - laws designed to lead to the separation of state and religion. According to the legal changes, mothers will also not be allowed to wear the hijab when accompanying their children to swimming pools or on school trips.
President Emmanuel Macron has previously expressed his belief that the hijab is not in line with French ideals, and that a ban on face-covering would empower women.
Although covering one's face for religious reasons appears to be such a quantitatively minor problem, the number of politicians calling for its legal prohibition is increasing. Does their opposition really stem from a concern for gender equality, or is it rather an attempt to exploit the dispute for their own ends? It is important to note, however, that these bans limit women's choices about how they want to express their identities outwardly. This does not change the fact that legally banning certain types of women's clothing not only strikes at gender equality but also reinforces Islamophobia against one of the genders.
Some politicians believe that allowing women to wear niqabs in Western countries is the same as accepting religious precepts that relegate women to the margins of society and make them invisible.
So why do politicians, the media, and some members of the public place such disproportionate importance on the dress of Muslim women? The most common justifications for the bans on headscarves and face covering are irrational. Some argue that covering the face is a threat to public safety, even though Muslim women remove their veils when identifying themselves at universities, banks, or airports.
Some Muslim women consider wearing a headscarf or veil to be their religious duty, for others, it will be an optional behavior designed to bring them closer to God, others simply want to express their political beliefs or stylistic preferences through their clothing, and for some, it will be just a passing fancy. Supporters of the ban, which will affect mainly Muslim women, believe that getting rid of hijabs and religious symbols will support women in the process of emancipation. The hijab, according to bill supporters, expresses "the inferiority of women over men", and parents should not impose religious practices on their children.
Banning hijabs for female students in France will not bring about the emancipation of Muslim women. The UN points out that the ban, rather than protecting covered women, could have the opposite effect by restricting their ability to leave their homes, hindering their access to public services, and marginalizing them.
I do not doubt that this is about something quite different from the concern for radicalized Muslims in the ghettos created by the French authorities. The ban will primarily affect women who profess Islam, who often participate with their children in activities on school grounds while wearing the traditional veil. But the amendment to the text of the law fighting "separatism" not only talks about conspicuous religious signs or attire, it also bans "the wearing by minors of any garment that denotes the inferior position of women over men."
However, it is worth considering whether those fighting for this ban are really concerned with the welfare of these women?
Marginalization and more or less overt discrimination lead to radicalization. Unfortunately, it turns out once again that if we don"t know or understand something, we stigmatize it. For many Muslim women, the hijab is a symbol of freedom, liberation; they wear it against their fathers, husbands, or brothers. Muslim feminists in France very often point out how important it is to leave to the woman herself the right to decide what she wants to wear and what she does not want to wear. The question is why no one - when making various decisions on their behalf and theoretically for their good - asks their opinion?
If we want women and girls to live in a world where they can enjoy dignity and equality, their bodies
and emotions must belong to them alone, and consequently, women must be able to dress with the same freedom as men.