The Estonian Ministry of Justice is planning to implement a ban on wearing a burqa or a niqab in public spaces – state offices, schools and hospitals.
The bill that the ministry is working on would see burqas and niqabs banned on the grounds that covering one's face in public is alien to Estonian cultural practices. Such garments would become banned in public institutions, such as schools.
“The aim of the bill is to ensure that no individuals, including immigrants, disturb other members of the Estonian society with their behavior and that they follow the norms of Estonian social space,” the ministry explained. “Enforcing these standards of conduct helps to prevent problems that could arise when people who migrate to Estonia find it difficult to assimilate to the Estonian society,” they added.
According to the ministry, the intended law is related to the impending ratification of the so-called Istanbul Convention, signed in 2014. The convention is a European Commission's initiative against violence against women and domestic violence.
“The convention regulates a number of laws that Estonia needs to amend or that it lacks altogether,” the ministry explained.
It also stressed that limitations set to wearing clothing like burqa or niqab in public are not a restriction of religious freedom, but based on the need to ensure safety, human dignity, and local social practices.
The bill will also ban and criminalize female genital mutilation, forced marriages, stalking and buying sexual services from victims of human trafficking.
Editor: M. Oll