Forced assimilation is an unhealthy policy intervention: The case of the hijab ban in France and Quebec, Canada

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Women of many cultures and religions find a means of coping with stress and ill health in faith-based practices, such as meditation and prayer. It is customary for Muslim women to participate in such activities, usually with a special dress code, which often includes a hijab. The headscarf ban in French and formerly in Quebec public schools not only forces Muslim female students to shed their essential religious dress code, but also fails to address the resulting health consequences and to acknowledge the cultural aspects of head-covering. This paper argues that the ban on head coverings in public schools is not only an infringement on religious and cultural freedoms, and violation of human rights, but that it is also an unhealthy policy intervention, as it undermines health by restricting prayers, mindfulness and spirituality. Furthermore, the ban has taken away Muslim women's choice to wear a hijab, thus restricting a sense of self-autonomy and in turn causing additional negative health implications. By synthesising these ideas, this paper holds a novel and critical perspective that the headscarf ban policy in France should be re-examined not only because of its infringement of human rights, but also to assess the negative health impacts on affected groups. For these reasons the paper advocates a reversal of the ban, as has happened in Quebec, Canada.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)428-440
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Human Rights
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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