New York: In 2010, when France passed a law that banned full-face coverings in public, some police organisations warned that they didn’t have the resources to enforce it. At the time, a leader of a French police union told the New York Times that the law was “a source of trouble more than anything else,” adding that its enforcement would cause riots in certain communities.

Although the law didn’t mention Muslim women in particular, it described any face covering in public places as illegal. It also outlined fines of tens of thousands of dollars for anyone who forced a woman to cover her face.

On Tuesday, years after the law went into effect, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that France had violated the human rights of two women who in 2012 were fined under that law after they publicly wore the niqab, a face covering worn by some Muslim women.

The law, which was passed during Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, was protested and seen by many as an effort to prevent Muslim women from expressing their religion publicly. But others viewed it as a way to increase public safety and solidify French identity.

The committee said, however, that it was not convinced by French authorities’ claims that face coverings threaten public safety and concluded that the law prevented the petitioners in the two cases from following their religious beliefs. The committee also found that the ban effectively prevents women who cover their faces from leaving home, thus isolating them from the rest of French society. WP

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