The result means a ban on covering the face in all places available to the public, including streets, public offices, public transportation, restaurants, shops and in the countryside.
The only exceptions include places of worship and other sacred sites. A face covering is also permitted if it is worn for health and safety reasons, given the weather and in situations where it is a “local custom” to do so, such as at carnivals, according to the text of the proposal published by Switzerland. Federal government.
The government document said there would be no additional exceptions, for example for tourists.
The proposal, submitted by several groups including the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, does not specifically mention Islam, but has been widely referred to as the “burqa ban” in the Swiss media.
It has been criticized by a number of Swiss religious organizations, human rights groups and civic groups, as well as the federal government. The Swiss Council of Religions, which represents all major religious denominations in Switzerland, condemned the proposal earlier this year, stressing that the human right to religious freedom also protects religious practices such as a dress code.
The Swiss Federal Council, which acts as the country’s federal government, and the Swiss Parliament also rejected the initiative, saying it crossed the limits and advised people to vote against it, according to government documents. The two bodies have put forward an anti-ban proposal, which would require people to remove any face coverings and show their faces to police or other officials if necessary for identification purposes.
Sunday’s referendum was the culmination of several years of debate on the issue and comes 12 years after another referendum banned the building of minarets in the country. According to the federal government’s website, two Swiss cantons – St. Gallen and Ticino – had already imposed bans on full-face coverage in the past. In many other cantons, it is forbidden to cover the entire face only in protests.
Amnesty International criticized the vote as “anti-Muslim”. “Swiss voters have again agreed to an initiative that discriminates against one religious sect in particular, which unnecessarily fuels division and fear,” the group said in a statement on Sunday.
Arnoud Siad of CNN contributed to this report.