France warned headscarf ban could pushgirls out of school

4th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

GENEVA, June 4 (AFP) - The United Nations's Committee on the Rights of the Child on Friday urged France to ensure its ban on the wearing of Islamic headscarves and other religious insignia in schools does not unintentionally lead to young girls being pushed out of the education system.

GENEVA, June 4 (AFP) - The United Nations's Committee on the Rights of the Child on Friday urged France to ensure its ban on the wearing of Islamic headscarves and other religious insignia in schools does not unintentionally lead to young girls being pushed out of the education system.

The committee said in a report that France should ensure individual rights were not violated and children were not excluded from schools as a result of the new law.

"The committee recommends that the (French) state ... consider alternative means, including mediation, of ensuring the secular character of public schools, while guaranteeing that individual rights are not infringed upon and that children are not excluded or marginalised from the school system and other settings as a result of such legislation," it said in its recommendations to Paris.

"(The law) may be counterproductive, by neglecting the principle of the best interest of the child and the right of the child to access to education, and not achieve the expected results," the group of 18 independent experts continued.

France's Minister for the Family Marie-Josee Roig told the committee on Wednesday the aim of the ban was to preserve total neutrality and equality in schools.

On Wednesday members of the committee sharply criticised the French law, which was adopted on March 14 and is due to come into force in September, and told Roig it was intolerant to Muslims.

"In what way does a headscarf disturb a classroom?" Dutch committee member Jacob Egbert Doek asked Roig, adding that he regretted a lack of tolerance on the part of French authorities.

Fellow committee member Rosa Maria Ortiz said the law ran counter to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates that states must respect a child's right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Egyptian colleague Mushira Khattab said it had raised the "fears of Muslim communities".

"What worries me is that this law plays into the hands of extremism and against minorities," she added.

Roig explained that secular traditions in French state schools could not be isolated from values like respect for others and the state had a duty to guarantee equality for all pupils.

"It's the fruit of a long history and common values that are the foundations of national unity," Roig told the panel of 18 former judges, lawyers and academics.

"We want to continue to preserve total neutrality in our schools," she added.

The committee has this week been conducting a regular examination of the way France enforces the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been signed by France and 191 other countries.

© AFP

Subject: French news


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