Home News St Gallen residents will vote on face coverings ban

St Gallen residents will vote on face coverings ban

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Voters in the canton of St Gallen will have their say on whether to impose a conditional ban on covering the face in public after a group of young socialists launched a referendum campaign to contest parliament’s proposal.

Last year the St Gallen cantonal parliament approved a bill banning any person from covering their face in public if they present a security risk or threaten social or religious peace, a condition evaluated on a case by case basis.

That could include women wearing the burqa and people covering their faces during demonstrations or protests or for criminal intent.

Residents of the canton will now have the final say on the proposed new law after a referendum campaign launched by the youth wings of the Socialist, Green and Green-Liberal parties managed to get more than the 4,000 necessary signatures to push it to a public vote, reported news agency ATS on Monday.

The issue of covering the face in public has been hotly debated in Switzerland over the past few years.

In 2016 Ticino became the first Swiss canton to implement a ban on wearing the burqa or niqab in public, with no exceptions for tourists.

Last year voters in the canton of Glarus refused a similar law banning face coverings, while the Swiss federal parliament also rejected a bill proposing for a nationwide ban.

However the issue is likely to go a federal referendum after a popular initiative on the subject gathered the required number of signatures to push it to a public vote.

The federal initiative goes further than St Gallen’s new law in that there is no assessment of risk — instead it proposes a general ban on covering the face in public, apart from certain exceptions for health, safety or the weather.

The government opposes the initiative and has lodged a softer counter-proposal that would ban anyone from forcing another person to cover their face.

A January survey suggested that the majority of the Swiss public are in favour of banning the burqa.

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