A cabinet decision by the Government of Sri Lanka has approved a proposal which bans all forms of face veils in public places. ‘National security concerns’ have been cited as the reason for this new statute. This comes at a time when the Sri Lankan government has strongly insisted its populace to wear protective face masks to contain the scourge of COVID-19 in the country. Sarath Weerasekara, a former Rear Admiral in the Sri Lankan Navy and presently the nation’s minister of public security had made an announcement proposing a ban on the burqas in March 2021 however the proposal faced significant backlash from the Arab world and other Muslim nations such as Pakistan.
Following the criticism, the Sri Lankan government clarified that it was simply a proposal with no intentions to implement it in a rushed manner. The optics of this was seen as Sri Lanka’s attempt to appease Muslim nations ahead of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) adopted a resolution on Sri Lanka. The UNHRC moved a resolution, spearheaded by Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom based on alleged war crimes and violation of human rights in Sri Lanka.
The proposal was first placed before the cabinet and received approval on 28 April 2021. The proposal as of now will not be drafted into a bill. The bill will move to the Sri Lankan parliament for approval, however it is speculated that it is likely to pass the floor as the Rajapaksa government enjoys two-thirds majority. The burqa ban will come into effect once it is passed in parliament.
What prompted Sri Lanka’s burqa ban move?
The Easter bombings of 2019, which claimed over 250 lives had reportedly placed tremendous pressure on the Sri Lankan government to increase surveillance on its Muslim populace. The terror attacks were blamed on a radical Islamist outfit, with local Sri Lankan origins. The aftermath of the terror attack saw Sri Lanka ban all face coverings as part of an emergency statute. If passed, the proposal ban will affect over two million Muslims in the country, which accounts for 10% of Sri Lanka’s population.
Sri Lanka’s proposed Burka Ban apes Europe’s
The proposal to ban burqas in Sri Lanka came only a few days after Switzerland imposed a similar such ban. Similarly, in the Netherlands, covering one’s face in public levies a penalty of at least €150. France, in April 2011 became the first country in Europe to issue a ban on the wearing of burqas in public places. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor has called for the prohibition of wearing burqas in public.