United Nations Human Rights Council
The International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD) submits its analysis on Law No. 2004-22 of Mar. 15, 2004 (also known as the “French Headscarf Ban”) as a contribution to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of UNHRC member-state France.
(I)Executive Summary/ General Statement on French Law No. 2004-22 of Mar. 15, 2004
(2) Law No. 2004-22 of Mar. 15, 2004, although couched in language that applies broadly to all religious denominations, has a disproportionate impact on minorities and has deleteriously affected members of the Muslim, Sikh, and Jewish communities. Children of these minority communities have been deterred from freely practicing their faith and have been forced to make the untenable choice between practicing their faith or obtaining a proper education.
(3) Cases filed at the UN Human Rights Committee, French Courts, and European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) make it apparent that specific minority communities have been affected by Law No. 2004-22. Thus, the danger of preserving Law No. 2004-22 is the continued marginalization of vulnerable communities and the further psychological and societal instability created within these communities because of a loss of religious identity.
(4) Any country seeking to restrict religious manifestation must show that the law is necessary to protect public safety, public order, health, or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. This international human rights principle intentionally sets a high bar for the State to meet, and additionally, the State must show that the law is legitimate, proportional, and non-discriminatory. During the 2008 UPR cycle, eight States specifically Recommended that France address issues of minority rights and religious freedoms, including the repeal of Law No. 2004-22.
(5) When laws have a disparate or disproportionate impact on minority communities, although couched in language that is of general and neutral application, they cease to uphold principles of secularism, pluralism, and democracy because in practice these laws are discriminatory, even if the result is indirect.
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