“No one should tell women what to wear” – UN rebukes France over Olympics hijab ban

The UN has slammed France on its stance to ban their athletes from wearing the hijab during the 2024 Paris Olympics.

France’s sports minister announced a ban on headscarves for the French Olympic team on Sunday, citing the country’s commitment to secularism and its policy of barring religious symbols at sporting events.

When asked about France’s stance, Marta Hurtado, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said “no one should impose on a woman what she needs to wear or not wear.”

Under the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, France “has an obligation to take all the appropriate measures to modify any social or cultural patterns which are based on the idea of inferiority or superiority or if either sexist,” Hurtado said.

“Having said that, the discriminatory practices against a group can have a harmful consequence,” Hurtado told reporters.

She also pointed out that according to international human rights standards, “restrictions of expressions, religions, beliefs, choices are only acceptable under really specific circumstances that address legitimate concerns of public safety, public order, public health or morals in a necessary and proportioned fashion.”

Unsurprisingly, the ban has triggered a wave of anger online, with many calling for a boycott of the Olympics.

Many question whether the media will interrogate France’s stance as intensely as it did Qatar’s human rights record during the World Cup.

French double standards

France’s onslaught on what Muslim women wear has no signs of abating.  

Just last week, Macron was accused of double standards when his wife and Queen Camilla wore ”modest” dresses at a function while his government stops Muslim girls from going to schools because they wear similar clothes.

On the first day of the new academic year, nearly 300 girls were prevented from entering school as they were deemed to be wearing an abaya.

On Sunday, French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera reiterated the government’s secularism commitment and objection to exhibiting religious symbols at sports events.

“What does that mean? That means the prohibition of any type of proselytising and the absolute neutrality of the public service,” Oudéa-Castéra told the broadcaster France 3. “Which means that the representatives of our delegations, in our French teams, will not wear the headscarf.”

On Tuesday, the ministry stated that Oudéa-Castéra’s comments aligned with French law and the country’s requirement that athletes not express religious opinions.  

“As such, they may not wear a headscarf (or any other accessory or garment expressing their religious affiliation) when representing France in a national or international sporting competition,” it said.

Although FIFA permitted wearing the hijab in 2014, France’s Council of State ruled in June that the headscarf remains banned in French football.  

The court deemed the prohibition “appropriate and proportionate,” arguing sporting bodies can require player neutrality to “ensure smooth competitions and prevent conflicts.”


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