On 7 March 2021, Swiss voters will vote on a federal ban on covering faces in public, a referendum focused on women wearing burqas and niqabs.
The Egerkingen initiative aims to ban face coverings in public and to protect the free will of women to leave their faces uncovered. The proposal makes exceptions, such as places of worship.
The Federal Council, Switzerland’s executive has announced that it views the proposed ban as unnecessary. In Switzerland there is no face covering problem, said Karin Keller-Sutter, a federal councillor, according to RTS.
Research by the University of Luzern found that only 20 to 30 women wear a full face covering in Switzerland. The few women seen wearing face coverings are usually tourists on rue du Rhône in Geneva or on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, said Keller-Sutter.
In addition, cantons should be free to decide on the question of the burqa, according to the Federal Council.
Currently, two Swiss cantons ban face covering in public: Ticino and St. Gallen. The law has been applied a few times in Ticino but never in St. Gallen. 15 other cantons have more limited bans that ban face covering at public gatherings and sports events. Others have no restrictions.
The Federal Council has agreed to a counter proposal, which was accepted by parliament, that requires people to reveal their faces to the authorities for identification purposes, for example at borders or on public transport. Anyone refusing could be fined up to CHF 10,000. This counter proposal will enter into force if the initiative is rejected.