• Press Release

Ban on face-veil risks stigmatizing Muslim women in Sri Lanka

April 30, 2019

In this picture taken on April 25, 2019, a Sri Lankan Muslim woman walks along a beach with her child in Kattankudy. - Zahran Hashim's sword-wielding zealotry fuelled fears in the sleepy east coast town of Kattankudy long before the cleric became Sri Lanka's most wanted man over the horrific Easter Sunday suicide attacks. The country's president announced on April 26 that Hashim led and died in the attack on the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo -- one of three hotels and three churches hit by bombers wearing explosive backpacks. (Photo by LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP) (Photo credit should read LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
Responding to Sri Lanka’s emergency regulations imposing a ban on clothing that conceals the face, Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director, Dinushika Dissanayake, said:

“At a time when many Muslims in Sri Lanka fear a backlash, imposing a ban that effectively targets women wearing a face veil for religious reasons risks stigmatizing them. They will be forced out of public spaces to stay at home and will be unable to work, study or access basic services. The ban violates their rights to non-discrimination,  freedom of expression and religion.

“Where there are legitimate security concerns, the authorities can carry out identity checks when objectively necessary. It is important that the state provides measures that comply with human rights. Women have a right to choose how they dress, whatever their beliefs. Forcing women to take off the face-veil is coercive and humiliating.”


The amended emergency regulations came into force on April 29, 2019, in the wake of the Easter Sunday massacre that claimed the lives of more than 250 people in attacks on three churches and three hotels. Since the attacks, Sri Lanka’s small Muslim community has been braced for a backlash while refugees from Muslim backgrounds or Muslim-majority countries have been attacked by hardline mobs.