A couple of weeks ago, France formally banned the wearing of full veils in public places. When I first heard of this, I was confused and could not quite figure out how this could possibly be justified. The first words that came to mind were discrimination, human rights violation, racism, etc.
So I started researching it and asking around me. I figured I probably did not understand fully what was going on because France’s political scene is mostly unknown to me and that just because I could not see the point did not necessarily mean that there was not any. And indeed, it seems that there has been a debate going on for over a year about it, and that a legislation was put in place in 2010 that bans the covering of the face in public places including shops and the streets as a security measure (which means that it is also illegal now to wear any kind of full-face masks). That legislation is what recently came into effect.
Still, I could not help feeling appalled by the fact that this new law was literally pointing the finger at some women, pretty much telling them what they could or could not wear. What kind of democracy is this when human beings are being told how to dress in public? How can we grow as a country when we start believing it is ok to infringe on others’ freedom? I have always been a firm believer that one’s freedom stops where someone else’s freedom starts. I believe no one should force their beliefs or opinions into others and if some things bother you, then it is your problem and we all have a responsibility to take care of our own business and ours only (and I do not mean that in an apathetic way).
Years ago, I remember how people in the US would complain about radio shock joke Howard Stern and how his show was so inappropriate that it should be cancelled. My solution: change the frequency! Just because you do not like or approve of something does not mean you get to censor it. Ever heard of the first amendment? Of the freedom of speech, the free exercise of religion?
Well, this is kind of all the same to me… Some people explained that the new law was about looking for a way to force people who take advantage of France’s social security system to show their full face when they claim their benefits. I guess I can somewhat understand that but in that case, simply make it mandatory for them to show their face and their ID when they come pick up their checks. Do not penalize others who might live their lives as honestly as possible.
Another argument I have heard is that women wear the full veil because the men in their lives force them to do so and that this new legislation is actually a first step in helping powerless abused women. But if the goal is to fight abusive domineering fathers, brothers, or husbands, why do we put in place a legislation that strictly points at women, potentially penalizing the ones who dress so by personal choice?
I still can’t quite figure out… After all I have learned and read about this issue, to me it still screams discrimination, human rights violation, racism, etc. But I try to remain open-minded and believe that I might still be missing the piece of the puzzle that justifies this situation. In this process, help is always welcome!