"Burka Ban" Approved by Spain Senate

, , ,

Spain's senate has narrowly passed the "burka ban" in public spaces, a topic that has united party lines. While, no, I am not in favor of the burka, I do find the fact that this is occupying such an exhaustive amount of public time ridiculous. Like I said before, there are a whole host of more substantive public policy agenda items that would be a better use of time to work towards female empowerment of migrant Muslim women.

Some of the text from the act that was approved reads as follows, taken from an article today in El País:

"El Senado insta al Gobierno a realizar las reformas legales y reglamentarias necesarias para prohibir el uso, en espacios públicos o acontecimientos públicos que no tengan una finalidad estrictamente religiosa, de vestimentas o accesorios en el atuendo que provoquen que el rostro quede completamente cubierto y dificulten así la identificación y la comunicación visual, al suponer esa práctica una discriminación contraria a la dignidad de las personas y lesionar la igualad real y efectiva de los hombres y las mujeres".

Rough translation: the Senate asks the government to make the legal reforms necessary to outlaw the use in public spaces that do not have a religious purpose, of clothing and accessories that cover the face completely or make it difficult to be identified or impede visual communication, assuming that this practice is a discrimination contrary to the dignity of people and to the fulfillment of true and effect equality between men and women.

Interestingly, I had found an earlier article in the Sunday edition of El País by Ferran Balsells entitled "El problema no es el burka", where the the reporter interviewed several people in Tarragona, Reus, El Vendrell, smaller cities of Cataluña. One of the stories caught my eye. The reporter interviewed a social worker in Reus named Sergi who has been giving Spanish classes to muslim women in the area for ten years now and who said that the the isolation of these women who use the burka doesn´t get solved by throwing out the cloth, so to speak.

He notes that teaching in the class is quite difficult, that there are some women who have been living in the region for 11 years and are still unable to recognize their names to fill out a document form. He says that the problem is that they do not know how to read even in their own language-a cultural, more than a religious problem. In class, they identify themselves by the silhouette of animals that have been assigned to them at the beginning of the course. He asks "what use will it be that these women come without the burka? What will it serve?"

Sergi asks a very interesting point...what is the end goal of the banning of the burka? It should be a starting point to address a great many challenges that migrant Muslim women face coming to Spain, many of whom come from North Africa. To give you some figures from the CIA World Fact Book, the female literacy rates are as follows: Morocco 40% (2004 est.), Algeria 60%, (2002 est.), Tunisia (65%), Libya (72%), Egypt (60%). The average gap in the difference between male literacy and female literacy rates in these five countries is more than a 20% gap. Among low-income women, this rate must be even higher. What are our priorities?

0 Responses on ""Burka Ban" Approved by Spain Senate"