Recently introduced rules in Geneva prevent people in public office wearing religious symbols at work.
This week, during a parliamentary session, Sabine Tiguemounine, a parliamentarian from the Green party, decided to sit in the area of Geneva’s parliament building open to the public, rather than sit in the main area where parliamentary members normally sit.
Newly introduced rules prevent public officials, including members of parliament, showing outward signs of religious affiliation, such as the head scarf she was wearing, while carrying out their public duties.
Her party is currently challenging the legality of the new legislation in Geneva’s constitutional court on the grounds that the ban is contrary to federal laws guaranteeing freedom of religion.
In an interview on Radio Lac Tiguemounine said that while she’s disappointed that the law came into effect so quickly before the conclusion of the constitutional court’s deliberations, she respects the canton’s democratic institutions.
In April 2018, the government of Geneva introduced new rules, which include a religiously neutral dress code designed to protect religious freedom and preserve religious neutrality in its public institutions. The new rules form part of a body of law known as laïcité or secularity laws. Laïcité is enshrined in article 3 of Geneva’s constitution and requires the state to be secular and separate from religion.
Geneva’s parliament was in favour of the new rules by 63 to 25, with 3 abstentions, according to RTS. However, some voters weren’t happy with the result and a referendum was run on 10 February 2019 with the aim of reversing the changes, however, the law was accepted by 55% of voters and the rules brought into force.