The burqa’s legal standing in Europe was dealt another blow this week after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Belgium’s ban on face veils is lawful under convention rules and “necessary in a democratic society.”
The Strasbourg-based court’s unanimous ruling Tuesday determined that the 2011 Belgian law, which prohibits people from wearing clothing that partly or completely covers the face in public, is justifiable under the European Convention on Human Rights because it aims to “guarantee the conditions of ‘living together’ and the ‘protection of the rights and freedoms of others.’” The two Muslim women—one a Belgian national, the other Moroccan—who had brought the case to court argued that the ban violates the rights of veiling-wearing women to religious freedom and privacy. The court ruled that it does not.
This isn’t the first time the ECHR has come to this conclusion. When the court considered France’s burqa ban in 2014, it accepted the French government’s argument that the ban was aimed not at targeting Muslim women’s freedom of religion, but rather at the “legitimate aim” of preserving the idea of living together. Citing its previous ruling in the S.A.S. v France case, ECHR said in Tuesday’s decision that “the concern to ensure respect for the minimum guarantee of life in society could be regarded as an element of the ‘protection of the rights and freedoms of others’ and that the ban was justifiable in principle solely to the extent that it sought to guarantee the conditions of ‘living together.’”