Austria court overturns primary school headscarf ban



Austria’s constitutional court has struck down a law prohibiting primary school children from wearing specific religious head coverings.

It said the law was aimed at the Islamic headscarf and breached rights on religious freedom.

The law was passed during the previous coalition government in which the conservative People’s Party was allied with the far-right Freedom Party, reports BBC.

The court said the law could lead to the marginalisation of Muslim girls.

It also rejected the government’s argument that the prohibition could protect girls from social pressures from classmates, saying it penalised the wrong people.

It said, if necessary, the state needed to draw up legislation to better prevent bullying on the grounds of gender or religion.

The legislation, which came into force last year, did not specify that headscarves were banned but instead proscribed the wearing of “religious clothing that is associated with a covering of the head” for children up to the age of 10. The government had itself said that head coverings worn by Sikh boys or the Jewish skullcap would not be affected.

The court decided that the ban was in fact aimed at Muslim headscarves.

“The selective ban… applies exclusively to Muslim schoolgirls and thereby separates them in a discriminatory manner from other pupils,” court President Christoph Grabenwarter said.

Education Minister Heinz Fassman said he took note of the judgment but added: “I regret that girls will not have the opportunity to make their way through the education system free from compulsion.”

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