• Press Release

First French Fines for Veiled Women is a ‘Travesty of Justice’ Says Amnesty International

September 22, 2011

Contact:  AIUSA media relations at 202-509-8194

(Washington, D.C.) — The first fines issued in France today against two Muslim women wearing full-face veils in public are a violation of their rights to freedom of expression and religion, Amnesty International said today.   

A court in Meaux near Paris fined Hind Ahmas 120 Euros and Najate Naït Ali 80 Euros for wearing the niqab, a full face veil, in public. The two women were originally stopped in the street by police on May 5 near the Meaux Town Hall, during a demonstration against the veil ban.

"This is a travesty of justice and a day of shame for France. These women are being punished for wearing what they want," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia. "Instead of protecting women's rights, this ban violates their freedom of expression and religion."

The ban on face coverings in all public places in France, including streets, schools, trains and courtrooms, entered into force on April 11.   

"We fear that women in France who choose to wear the niqab in public now feel confined to their homes, because it is illegal for them to walk down the streets of their own country dressed as they wish to be dressed," said Dalhuisen.

When proposing the ban, the French government had argued that the measure was necessary for public safety and to protect women from being pressured into wearing full face veils.

Amnesty International disputes this, and believes that the state can protect women against such pressure by combating gender stereotypes, violence against women and discriminatory attitudes, and by applying criminal and family law where appropriate. Any legitimate security concerns over face-coverings should be met by targeted restrictions in well-defined high risk locations.

"For security purposes, complete public bans on face-coverings are unnecessary and discriminatory," added Dalhuisen. "For the protection of women, the state has measures at its disposal which are far more appropriate than a ban which confines women who choose to wear the full face veil to their homes."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom and dignity are denied.

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