Picture by The Sartorialist for his website (On the street...Slussen Subway Stop, Stockholm. Thursday, August 16, 2007)

Currently writing on a short paper for my Law and Gender class, I found the following circumstances in France to be particularly interesting. 

In France a prohibition against wearing a veil and other visibly (discrete ones are still permitted) demonstrative religious symbols at state schools was established through legislation by the Parliament in March 15 2004 after an intense debate in the media with numerous groups voicing an opinion. A noted case that would to start the debate in France originates from 15 years earlier back in 1989 when 3 teenage girls were expelled from an elementary school in the city of Creil for wearing the veil. Disobedience against the law may result in repercussions against a student and has since in force resulted in the expulsion of 50 students (including 3 boys for wearing turbans)

While the emancipation of women and fighting religious "oppression" against women in order to "free" them has been the focus for many of those who stand behind this legislation in France, to think that only gender aspects have played a part would be incorrect. Opinions voiced in favor of the legislation have sometimes disguised as and seemingly "feminist" been made through extreme-conservative points of views on what role Islam should be allowed in the secular French society. While no particular religious symbol is mentioned in the legislation it is widely held and believed that head covering clothing as displayed in Islam has been the main target. The passing of the legislation has been made possible and "justified" by France's maintaining the concept of laicism, a concept of a society where religion and the state are separated. Laicism is established in the present French Constitution. The legislation certainily strikes a chord in some as an extreme measure of entertaining the notion of laicisim.

Those in doubt of the legislation have in the French debate been met as anti-Feminist and anti-freedomist. On one level there's a blatant contradiction in a state passing legislation in the name of the freedom of some when this legislation goes against the freedom of choice of the targeted group. Many of the girls wearing veil today are doing so by very own will and in their case the law ends up defining for them its own concept of freedom.

The nature of the use of the veil is far more complex and nuanced than always acknowledged. Through the perspective of some of these girls the veil, contrary to being oppression, rather marks a sort of self-empowerment in terms of having the freedom over their own body and being in charge of how it may be viewed by others. Only in cases, because there are certainly those as well, where the veil is imposed on women does it come across as reasonable for anyone to even speak along the lines of "oppression". The legislation however puts all veil wearing girls in the same category in its quest to "free" them. Critics of the veil will conclude that despite appearing as by free will for some, these girls de facto lack a choice of their own as what is "the right thing to do" as a Muslim with which they want to comply, is originally being directed to them by others i.e. male interpreters of the Quran. Likely some girls, who are subject to the legislation, do act out of expectations of their family and thus passive pressure.

Yet, even that being the case, what  right does the law have here being opiniated about how people conform to their religious beliefs?

Postat av: Anonym

Apropå min San Francisco-längtan.

Jag vet precis vad jag gjorde denna dag. Goddamnit.

2009-05-14 @ 19:26:02

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