If a country which wishes to ban the burka, it obviously cannot do so outright, since that would directly restrict many basic freedoms, such as personal freedom, religious freedom, etc. Since many countries wish to at least pretend that they are in favor of such rights, they are going to have to apply loopholes, such as "burka = security threat".

But, assuming they manage to do so, and I live in this country, will it thus be impossible for me to walk in public whilst covering my face? That is, would that rule out helmets? Masks? Anti-pollution cycling wear? If I walk down the street covering my face with my hands because I want to protect my face from the sun as I did not wear sun cream, will the police attack me and force me to pull my hands down?

I don't really understand how you can enforce such a law without causing a heck of a lot of problems for many other people. I also do not understand how such a law would be beneficial in any way: if a women feels that her religion imposes on her the burka, and if you forbid her from wearing it, she will simply stay at home and not walk in public. Hence the burka ban seems to accomplish just as much female degradation and oppression as the burka itself is supposedly doing.

To be clear, my questions are:

  1. Assuming a burka ban is in place, how can it be phrased whilst also protecting all other people covering themselves for a multitude of sensible reasons.

  2. What exactly is the law supposed to accomplish? Who is it helping? If there really is a group of women being forced to wear the burka in western societies, what an atrocity, but is banning the burka really helping them? Would their families not just force them to stay inside then or only have limited access to public places, hence making their already terrible situation much worse?

closed as off-topic by Tim Lymington, Nij, Pat W., feetwet Oct 11 '17 at 23:05

  • This question does not appear to be about law, within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Your second question is entirely off topic, though quite suited for Politics SE. I would delete that question. The first question is entirely appropriate for Law SE and could be answered factually. – user6726 Oct 11 '17 at 19:52
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because both parts would be better answered on Politics.SE. – Tim Lymington Oct 11 '17 at 19:54
  • Q1 could be answered in terms of looking at actual wording in laws and e.g. how a burga is distinguished from a welder's mask. – user6726 Oct 11 '17 at 20:19
  • If a country wants to ban burkas outright, they can of course do that. They can be accused of all kinds of -isms but countries are free to make their laws. – gnasher729 Oct 11 '17 at 20:26

We could start with the Australian bill, which is not a law but might become one. The prohibition is:

A person commits an offence if a terrorism threat declaration is in force the person wears a full face covering in a public place.

However, the ban does

not apply if the wearing of the full face covering is reasonably necessary, in all the circumstances, for any of the following purposes:

(a) the lawful pursuit of the wearer’s occupation;

(b) the wearer’s participation in lawful entertainment, recreation or sport;

(c) a genuine artistic purpose;

(d) protection from physical harm, if the full face covering is safety equipment;

(e) such other purposes as are prescribed by the regulations.

Full face covering means

an item that substantially covers the front of a person’s head from the top of the forehead to the base of the chin in a way that conceals the identity of the person (whether or not a part of the person’s face can still be seen).

Various safety masks would be legal, likewise Mardi Gras garb. Guy Fawkes masks qua protest devices might be legal, if that is covered by "constitutional doctrine of implied freedom of political communication". But, this is not a law, just a possible law.

The French ban says that

No one shall, in any public space, wear clothing designed to conceal the face.

but then

The prohibition set forth in Section 1 hereinabove shall not apply if such clothing is prescribed or authorised by legislative or regulatory provisions, is authorised to protect the anonymity of the person concerned, is justified for health reasons or on professional grounds, or is part of sporting, artistic or traditional festivities or events.

The French law is more restrictive, compared to the Australian bill (is broader in terms of what is disallowed, and has no connection to a declared terrorist threat, is stated in terms of "concealing the face" rather than "concealing the identity").

The Austrian ban says:

Whoever covers or conceals his or her facial features with clothing or other objects in public places or in public buildings in a manner so that these features can no longer be recognised, commits an administrative offence and must be fined €150.

then states the exceptions:

The prohibition of covering one’s face pursuant to para 1 is not breached if the covering or concealing of one’s facial features is provided for in federal or provincial legislation, occurs in the context of artistic, cultural or traditional events or during the exercise of sports or for health or professional reasons.

which is very similar to the French law. Then the Belgian ban says more or less the same, framed in terms of being non-identifiable, with exceptions pertaining to labor regulations, or "with the permission of a police ordinance on account of festivities" (discussion in this article).

It is also claimed towards the end of Apr. 2016 that Latvia banned the burqa, though the Latvian government says that toward the end of August 2017, it supported a draft law to that effect (suggesting that there was not actually a law yet): their summary of the law indicates that it is about facial identification, and has the expected set of weather, safety, and festivities exceptions. The ban in Morocco apparently only prohibits manufacture and sale, not wearing. Unfortunately, finding the text of the ban-laws for Cameroon, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, and Chad.

In other words, the ban if not specifically about hijab, it is about any kind of identity-obscuring face covering, with reasonably well-defined exceptions that cover the sensible reasons for covering your face in public.

  • Worth noting that it is reported dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4962838/… that on 10 October 2017 a man wearing a mascot shark head was fined under the Austrian law. On the face of it, he probably has a "professional reasons" defense. – Dale M Oct 11 '17 at 22:55

If you live in a country that disallows some face coverings, in some situations, then obviously you need to read the exact law, and if it is written reasonably then you will find out exactly what is illegal.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.