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Burka ban Outright burka ban faces opposition in parliament

Women with face covering using mobile phone, people in traditional Swiss costumes in background

A campaign for a n outright burka ban in public collected enough signatures for a nationwide vote in 2017.  Parliament is opting for a more moderate legal reform. 

(Keystone/Martial Trezzini)

Swiss parliamentarians have supported a plan to oblige people to show their faces during identity checks and visits to social security authorities. The proposal is aimed at countering an outright ban on wearing a burka in public. 

The House of Representatives on Thursday agreed in principle to a legal reform, which falls short of a hard-line constitutional amendment. 

A majority of the house, notably representatives of the Social Democratic Party as well as centrist groups, also approved additional measures to help integrate foreign women into Swiss society. 

Members of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party and the left-wing Greens  voted against the counter-proposal sponsored by the government

The other parliamentary chamber, the Senate, still has to decide on proposals aimed at improving gender equality, notably for Muslim women. 

Hardline initiative  

The counter-proposal comes amid a right-wing people’s initiative aimed at introducing a burka ban. Campaigners handed in the necessary number of signatures in 2017 to force a nationwide vote. They argue Switzerland should do more to combat “islamisation” and safeguard public security. 

Parliament is due to wrap up discussions on the initiative next year before a date is set for a nationwide vote at a later stage. 

Two of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, Ticino and St Gallen, have introduced burka bans at a local level; other cantons rejected similar proposals.

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