On the 30th of March 2021, the French Senate voted to prohibit women under the age of 18 from publicly wearing any religious clothing that is only worn by women. The bill states “Prohibition in the public space of any conspicuous religious sign by minors and of any dress or clothing which would signify an interiorization of women over men”. While the exact wording doesn’t explicitly state it, this is a direct attack on Muslim women. While the French Government affirms that the Sepreatist Bill is to promote secularism –defining a separation between state and religion–the bill is perceived as forced assimilation, rather than promoting individualism.
Additionally, the government has banned the wearing of burkinis at public swimming pools. This seems paradoxical to me. In rape cases, society often places blame on the girl or woman for the clothes she is wearing. And now, a woman who chooses not to expose certain parts of her body is being forced to by the government?
This ban is not the first attack on Muslim women in France. In 2009, President Nicholas Sakozy said “I want to say solemnly, the burka is not welcome in France. In our country, we can’t accept women prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity. That’s not our idea of freedom”. This completely negates the ideology of women who choose to wear a niqab or burqa. While promoting young women’s rights in order to encourage freedom, not allowing freedom of choice goes against individualism as a key objective of the country of France.
“There is a real infantilization of Muslim women. We live in a society where women wearing the hijab are prevented from working, from doing sports, from singing on a TV show, and from accompanying children on a school outing”, French-Tunisian fashion contributor Taqwa Bint Ali told Vogue Arabia. “All these polemics and laws that have a desire to ‘liberate’ women push these women to stay home. It is very ironic when the clichés perceive us as women who do not leave the house and do not work because of male authority when in reality, it is the government that wants to erase us from society”.
What is even more infuriating is that The National Assembly is changing the age of sexual consent to 15 years old (which is absurdly young). In short, the French Government is saying that a 15 year old girl can decide if she wants to have sex, but cannot make a religious choice of wearing a hijab. Please make it make sense.
Personally, I still fail to understand how banning a religious piece of clothing represents the country’s take on Nationalism. How can a white privileged male have the power and authority to make a decision for a young girl of color of what she does/does not want to do based on her religion? And how is a young Muslim women supposed to feel individualistic and empowered when the country is robbing her of her of religious beliefs in the name of freedom?