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France: Women's rights advocates outraged after Senate votes to ban hijab in sports

Legislators voted 160 to 143 in favour of the right-wing proposal, which has yet to be adopted
france-muslim-woman-hijab-may-2021-reuters
A woman wearing a hijab walks at Trocadero square near the Eiffel Tower in Paris (Reuters/file photo)

French legislators have voted in favour of an explicit ban on "the wearing of the veil in sports competitions", triggering an uproar by women's rights advocates. 

The lawmakers on Tuesday amended proposed legislation that proposed the prohibition of "the conspicuous wearing of religious signs" while taking part in events and competitions organised by the sports federations.

The amendment, proposed by the right-wing group Les Republicains, added the reference to the headscarf (hijab) that many Muslim women choose to wear in public, arguing that headscarves can put the safety of athletes at risk, and that neutrality is required in sports.

It was approved by 160 Senate members and rejected by 143. The French government voted against the amendment. 

France already triggered outrage since an amendment last year to the controversial "separatism bill" that banned girls under the age of 18 from wearing hijab in public spaces.

The bill titled "Strengthening the respect of the principles of the Republic” drew criticism on social media and saw the beginning of the “hands off my hijab” campaign.

The French football federation already bans women from wearing the hijab in official matches, and headscarves are prohibited in schools and government buildings. 

In a TikTok video, liked by 2.4 million people, @sfkhader explores what many are thinking about the ban.

As the 2024 Summer Olympics are to be held in Paris, it is unclear how the amended legislation will affect the event. Changes can still be made to the amendment by members of the Senate and lower house by forming a commission before the amendment is published.

With World Hijab Day on 1 February, the French Senate vote has given rise to confusion on its stance between secularism and neutrality.

In an Instagram video Manal Rostom, the hijab-wearing Nike and My Protein ME ambassador, invited women to campaign against the decision and urged her followers to “continue to play sports in whatever gear she feels most comfortable in.” 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Manal A Rostom (@manirostom)

One Twitter user called out the systemic targeting of Muslim women by the French government.

Others took to Twitter to voice their more pressing concerns:

Following the decision to ban the hijab in sports events, France-based blog, Le Bondy Blog, published an article titled: “Muslim women are victims when silent, and soldiers of political Islam when they speak.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bondy Blog (@bondy.blog)

Translation: We would like women to be more emancipated, that they have the right to do sport or do whatever they want to do, quite simply

This story comes as some girls have been banned from entering the classroom in India at a college in Karnataka.

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