S.A.S, a 23 year old French citizen, filed an application against France to challenge the ban on the full face veil. She argued that as a woman wearing a face veil, the ban constituted a violation of her right to private life, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and her right not to be discriminated against. The French Government recognised that the ban may represent a limitation on Article 9 of the Convention i.e. the freedom to manifest one’s religion, but argued, however, that the limitation pursued legitimate aims and was necessary in a democratic society for the fulfillment of those aims. The Government argued that the ban sought to protect equality between men and women, as to consider that women must conceal their faces in public places amounted to denying them the right to exist as individuals. The Government also argued that this forced them to express their individuality only in the private family space or in an exclusively female space. The Government indicated that the practice of wearing the veil was incompatible in French society with the fundamental rules of social communication, tolerance and the requirements of “living together”. The court held that the ban imposed by the Law of 11 October 2010 was to be regarded as proportionate to the aim pursued, namely the preservation of the conditions of “living together” as an element of the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others” and thus no violation of Articles 8 or 9 of the Convention was found.
Women and Justice: Keywords
Gender discrimination. The Muslim applicant, aged eleven at the material time, was enrolled in the first year of a state secondary school and wore a headscarf to school. On seven occasions in January 1999 the applicant went to physical education and sports classes wearing her headscarf and refused to take it off despite repeated requests to do so by her teacher, who explained that wearing a headscarf was incompatible with physical education classes. At a meeting on 11 February 1999 the school's pupil discipline committee decided to expel the applicant from the school for breaching the duty of assiduity by failing to participate actively in physical education and sports classes. The applicant's parents appealed against that decision to the appeal panel. The applicant claimed that expelling her for wearing the headscarf had amounted to an interference with her religious freedom under Article 9 of the Convention. The court however held that her rights were not infringed, following the Turkish case of Leyla Sahin (Leyla Sahin v. Turkey ([GC], no. 44774/98, ECHR 2005-XI) whereby it was found that secularism, as upheld by the French Government in that case, was of fundamental constitutional value in terms of the importance of the protection of women's rights. It was held that secularism was undoubtedly one of the fundamental principles of the State which was in harmony with the rule of law and respect for human rights and democracy. The court thus noted that secularism was the guarantor of democratic values, ensuring that all citizens are treated equally. The court confirmed that the freedom to manifest one's religion could be restricted in order to defend such values. It concluded that this notion of secularism was consistent with the values underpinning the Convention.