The human rights of women wearing the veil in western Europe: a new human rights analysis

In recent years, an increasing number of countries in western Europe have adopted restrictions on wearing religious attires, such as headscarves or full-face veils, in different public spaces (e.g. at work, in school, on the streets). Mostly Muslim women and girls wearing religious veils have been affected by such restrictions.

The UN Human Rights Office has issued a new analysis on how such restrictions have affected the human rights of women and girls who wear them in western Europe. UN Human Rights, in collaboration with the Clinic University of Essex Human Rights Centre, conducted research on the issue, analyzing legislation, policies and case-law on religious attire in a number of countries in western Europe and how they affect the human rights of women and girls who wear the veil. It also examined discrimination and violence experienced by women wearing the veil, through interviewing affected women and girls as well as experts who have been working with them.

The paper highlights the need for a balanced conversation and more consultations with women and girls, in particular Muslim women, both those wearing a veil and not wearing one, and better acknowledgement of their voices in debates around this issue. There is a need for more disaggregated data as well as documentation and awareness about both the impact of restrictions on the veil and the public narratives surrounding it. It also calls for stronger efforts to encourage reporting of incidents of discrimination, violence and harassment and to ensure redress for the victims.

Human Rights of Women Wearing the Veil in Western Europe full report