The United Nations Human Rights Committee have declared that France is violating human rights with its law, ‘Act prohibiting the concealment of the face in a public space’. The controversial act was passed by the French Senate in 2010 and came into effect in April 2011. Although some agreed with it, citing security and issues with identification, the act was mostly met with global criticism as items of clothing that violated the new law included the burqa and the niqab. Breaking the law results in a fine of up to $170.

In 2012 two women were separately convicted and fined for covering their faces in public. Four years later they filed a complaint with the UN Committee who have now released a statement in which they have, ‘found that the general criminal ban on the wearing of the niqab in public introduced by the French law disproportionately harmed the petitioners’ right to manifest their religious beliefs, and that France had not adequately explained why it was necessary to prohibit this clothing… in particular, the Committee was not persuaded by France’s claim that a ban on face covering was necessary and proportionate from a security standpoint or for attaining the goal of ‘living together’ in society.’

The committee also said that the two women should be compensated, and that the 2010 act could, ‘rather than protecting fully veiled women, could have the opposite effect of confining them to their homes, impeding their access to public services and marginalizing them.’

France has 180 days to respond and detail what action it has taken since receiving the decision.

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