French plan to ban hijab for under 18s triggers critical backlash

French plan to ban hijab for under 18s triggers critical backlash
A senate vote in France to ban on anyone under the 18 wearing the hijab, part of a controversial anti-separatism bill, has prompted an angry backlash online.
2 min read
06 April, 2021
A petition condemning the French senate vote has gained more than 120,000 signatures online [Getty]

The French senate's vote to ban anyone under the age of 18 from wearing the hijab has generated a critical backlash from social media users and a protest petition which has amassed over 120,000 signatures online.

The vote, which took place last Tuesday, bans hijab-wearing women from accompanying children on school trips and also stops women from wearing burkinis, a form of swimwear which covers the entire body.

The raft of measures is part of an controversial 'anti-separatism' bill. The legislation has been pushed ever since the country witnessed a wave of terror attacks, but rights groups have slammed it as unfairly targeting France's muslims.

The ban on hijabs is yet to be made law, since the National Assembly must first approve it. Full face-viels, known as the niqab, have already been banned in French schools since 2004.

If the new ban becomes law, it will be lower than the age of consent in France, which is set to be changed to 15.

Dr Pragdya Agarwal, a behavioural and data scientist who is the author of (M)otherhood: On the choices of a being a woman, slammed the proposed law in a tweet.

"France senate has voted to ban hijab for under 18s. If passed it will make age of consent for sex lower than age of consent for hijab: an extraordinary decision,” Agarwal wrote.

"It is about pretending to liberate Muslim women while really taking away autonomy & choice: white saviour complex."

Ayisha Siddiqa, an environmentalist and co-founder the Polluters Out, argued the ban stemmed from the larger issue of oversexualisation of women and children's bodies.

"Countries that ban head covering, operate on the ideology that if society can’t sexualise you, if your bodily autonomy is not for its viewing you’re not fully human".

Read also: Behind Macron's faux issues lies an ugly reality

In an Instagram post which has gained over 250,000 likes, US Olympice fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad suggested the ban was a consequence of the normalisation of Islamophobic discourse across the West.

"This is what happens when you normalize anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim hate speech, bias, discrimination, and hate crimes— Islamophobia written into law. May Allah protect our sisters,” Muhammad wrote.

A petition on to fight the bill and support women and girls who wear the hijab has gained over 120,000 signatures online. It is not clear whether the petition forms part of a larger political pressure campaign against France's legislature.

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