On March 30th, the French senate voted on a bill that would result in prohibiting girls under 18 years old from wearing the Hijab in public.  Further amendments also aim to ban Hijabi mothers from accompanying children on school trips and allow public pools to turn away women wearing a burkini.  

Also referred to as the “Anti-Separatism Bill,” the proposed legislation will prohibit in public areas “any conspicuous religious sign by minors and of any dress or clothing which would signify an inferiorization of women over men.”  However, wearing the Hijab is a choice entirely up to a woman to decide for herself: it is in no way associated with the inferiority of women. The bill would affect the many Muslim girls who choose to wear the Hijab before they’re 18, as well as those who just wish to visit the country. The ban is not in effect yet, since it first needs to pass through the National Assembly.

The potential Hijab ban is far from the first instance of islamophobia from the French government, however.  Back in 2010, France passed a law prohibiting religious face coverings in public, including the niqab, which some Muslim women choose to wear for religious or modesty purposes.  Despite face coverings now being mandatory in most public spaces during pandemic times, the niqab is still not allowed.  

Via @rawdis on Instagram

The French government deems the previous niqab ban and pending Hijab ban necessary to uphold the nation’s secularism, meaning separation of the church and the state, among other European values like enlightenment and individualism. French President Emmanuel Macron has also previously expressed that he believes the face covering ban would empower women.  Many have been quick to call out the hypocrisy of claiming that this bill, which will dictate what young women can wear and in essence strip them of their individualism, is “empowering women” and “upholding French ideals.”  The hashtag #HandsOffMyHijab has quickly become trending among all social media platforms, under which Muslim women are sharing how dire of an impact this will have for girls in France.

Furthermore, if France passes this bill, the legal age to wear the Hijab will be the same as the legal age to purchase alcohol, and higher than the legal age to consent to sexual relations, which was established as 15 years old this March.

To read more about the impact the bill will have for young women in France, take a look at these articles by Muslim women.

As a Muslim woman in Australia, France’s Hijab ban is more than just a law – by Nawal Sari / Vogue Australia

As a French Hijabi, This is What I Think of My Country’s Controversial Hijab Ban – by Hafsa Lodi / Vogue Arabia

Sources:

https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/france-allows-girls-to-consent-to-sex-at-15-but-bans-hijab-until-18-45763

https://www.npr.org/2020/04/28/847433454/from-niqab-to-n95

https://www.euronews.com/2021/04/12/handsoffmyhijab-online-criticism-grows-over-proposed-french-law-banning-hijab-for-children

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56413881

https://www.abouther.com/node/37246/people/features/france-ban-hijab-women-under-age-18