Swiss canton votes heavily to ban burqa
A second Swiss canton has voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to introduce a “burqa ban”.
St Gallen in northeast Switzerland voted by 67 per cent to prohibit all face-covering in public spaces, following the southern canton of Ticino, where a law was introduced in 2016 targeting burqas and niqabs.
The proposal saying “any person who renders themselves unrecognisable by covering their face in a public space, and thus endangers public security or social and religious peace, will be fined” was adopted by parliamentarians in St Gallen in 2017.
The regional parliament approved the legislation with the support of right-wing and centrist parties but the Green Party and Young Socialists demanded a referendum.
The Swiss central government last year opposed an initiative to enforce a nationwide burqa ban, saying it should be up to the regions to determine if such legislation was appropriate.
Voters across Switzerland are expected to be asked to vote on burqas next year after the populist, right-wing Swiss People’s Party obtained the 100,000 signatures needed to put any subject to a plebiscite under the Swiss direct democratic system.
Around 20,000 protested in the capital, Bern, to demand wage equality, warning that women are prepared to strike if MPs do not address the pay gap.
The largest Swiss union, Unia, which helped to organise Saturday’s demonstration, said women were “sick of sexism and discrimination” and “wage inequality”.
Placards read “equality now” and “same work, different salary” with the protest coming ahead of this week’s parliamentary debate on imposing more oversight over wage distribution at large employers.
The government has asked for any company with more than 50 staff to be required to provide wage equality details in an independent audit every four years.
But the upper house in May only approved a watered-down version, saying it should apply only to companies with more than 100 staff, affecting less than 1 per cent of firms.
Gender equality has been in Switzerland’s constitution since 1981 but women still earn on average 20 per cent less than men, Unia said.
Corrine Scharer, a board member of Unia, said: “Even if you take into account all of the regular excuses and you only compare women and men in the exact same position with the same professional experience, the fact remains that a woman in Switzerland is cheated out of 300,000 Swiss francs [US$313,000] over the course of a career, just because she is a woman.”
Swiss women’s rights are in the spotlight. Picture credit: Pixabay