Dutch seek to ban the veil

// 11 November 2006

The Dutch government has said it will ban women from wearing the niqab and the burka in public, the Guardian reports.

With Dutch elections coming up on the 22 November, the incumbent right-leaning coalition says it will look for ways to enforce a ban. At the moment, Dutch religious freedom laws – and, I should think, the European Convention on Human Rights, mean a ban would be illegal.

Muslim groups estimate that as few as 50 women out of 1 million Dutch Muslims wear the burka or the niqab, but the groups have protested that a ban would increase feelings of victimisation and alienation. “What the government is doing now is totally disproportionate to the number of women who actually wear the burka,” said Ayhan Tonca, chairman of an umbrella group of Dutch Muslim organisations. “The legislation we already have to protect people for security reasons is adequate,” he added.

One Dutch-born Muslim, identifying herself only as Hope, told Reuters that she wore the niqab because she wanted to. “Nobody has the right to forbid it. If someone decides I cannot wear it, then I will feel suppressed,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mexico City has passed legislation legalising civil unions. Particularly interestingly, the measure means that both same-sex and straight couples can register their relationships, gaining many of the benefits of marriage without having to actually get married.

The UK government, remember, has refused to open up civil unions to heterosexual couples. But the measure is of course mainly a great thing for the Mexican capital’s LGBT population. Unfortunately, gay couples outside of Mexico City will not benefit from this new right, although the BBC says similar legislative initiatives are on the cards in other states.

The measure passed 47 to 17, despite strong opposition from the right wing.

Meanwhile, in the US, a new reportrefutes the idea that women who leave work once they become mothers are doing so out of choice. Instead, the report authors conclude, discrimination and inflexible working arrangements mean mothers are pushed out.

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