Swiss voters delivered their verdict Sunday on a proposal to ban face coverings, both the niqabs and burqas worn by a few Muslim women in the country and the ski masks and bandannas used by protesters. A projection after polls closed pointed to a very close result.
The measure would outlaw covering one’s face in public places like restaurants, sports stadiums, public transport or simply walking in the street.
There would be exceptions at religious sites and for security or health reasons, such as the face masks people are wearing now to protect against Covid-19, as well as for traditional Carnival celebrations. Authorities would have two years to draw up detailed legislation.
The Swiss government opposes the measure and says that people covering their faces is a “marginal” issue. It argues the measure could harm tourism — most Muslim women who wear such veils in Switzerland are visitors from well-heeled Persian Gulf states, who are often drawn to Swiss lakeside cities. And it says that it wouldn’t help the women affected.
It backs instead requiring people to show their faces if requested to do so by authorities. Supporters of the proposal, which is coming to a vote five years after it was launched and has come to be known colloquially as the “burqa ban,” argue that the full-face coverings symbolise the repression of women.