Switzerland: Full face coverings to be banned in public places

Swiss voters backed a ban on full face coverings in public places
Switzerland: Full face coverings to be banned in public places
A campaign poster, in favour of the "burqa ban" initiative reading in German: "Stop extremism!" is seen in Biberen near BernImage source: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Zurich: Switzerland on Sunday narrowly voted in favour of banning full facial coverings in almost all public places. The measure to alter the Swiss constitution passed by a 51.2-48.8 per cent margin, official results showed.

Some 1,426,992 voters were in support of the ban, while 1,359,621 declined, on a 50.8 per cent turnout. According to CNN, the approval by voters means that facial covering will be banned in all publicly accessible places, including on the streets, in public offices, on public transport, in restaurants, shops and in the countryside.

According to CNN, the proposal, drafted by several groups including the right-wing Swiss People's Party, does not reference Islam specifically but has been widely referred to as the ‘burqa ban’ in Swiss media. The proposal has been widely criticised by the Swiss religious organisations and others.

Even though the draft "Yes to a ban on full facial coverings" did not mention the burqa or the niqab -- which leaves only the eyes uncovered, there was no doubt as to what the dispute was about.

The bar would mean that nobody could cover their face completely in public. But there would be exclusions, including for places of worship or for health reasons. The vote came at a time when face masks are compulsory in shops and on public transport amid COVID-19. Almost 12 years ago another referendum had come that outlawed the construction of minarets in the country.

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