New laws require masks while same-country prior laws ban face coverings
A new requirement to wear wear masks in public in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus poses a problem in France and Belgium, where laws prohibit wearing face coverings, with health as the only allowed exception.
In France, where the law was passed in 2010, between 2011 and 2017 1,830 Muslim women were fined for wearing veils and 145 were warned. The law does not state how to distinguish when face coverings are worn for health reasons rather than religious belief.
This leaves authorities with the discretion to decide the reason the face covering is being worn, opening the way to discriminatory enforcement. Similar face covering bans exist in a number of other countries including Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, and the Netherlands, as well as the Canadian province of Quebec and parts of Switzerland.
Writer: Article 19
Publication: Article 19