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UN criticizes France for banning hijab at 2024 Olympics

The United Nations has expressed its disapproval of the French government’s decision to prohibit French athletes from wearing the Islamic veil or hijab at the 2024 Paris Olympics. The UN human rights office said that no one should impose on a woman what she should or should not wear, and that such restrictions could have harmful consequences.

France invokes secularism and neutrality

The French Sports Minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, announced on Sunday that French athletes will not be allowed to wear a hijab at the Paris Olympics next year, citing the principle of secularism and the neutrality of the public service. She said that this means a ban on any form of proselytism and that the representatives of the French delegations will not wear the veil.

The minister’s statement was based on a ruling by the Council of State, the highest administrative court in France, which upheld a ban on wearing the hijab in women’s football in June. The court said that the principle of public service neutrality applies to sports federations that are in charge of a public service, and that one cannot wear a headscarf or any other accessory or outfit demonstrating a religious affiliation when representing France in a national or international sporting competition.

UN criticizes France for banning hijab at 2024 Olympics

UN calls for respect for women’s rights and choices

The UN human rights office spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado, responded to the French minister’s announcement on Tuesday, saying that the UN opposes any imposition on women’s dress codes. She said that the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women obliges all parties, including France, to take all appropriate measures to modify any social or cultural patterns that are based on the idea of inferiority or superiority of either sex.

She also said that discriminatory practices against a group can have harmful consequences, and that restrictions on the expression of religion or belief, such as the choice of clothing, are only acceptable in very specific circumstances that address legitimate concerns for public safety, public order, public health or morals in a necessary and proportionate fashion.

IOC has a different approach

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a different approach to the issue of hijab in sports. The IOC considers the wearing of the veil not as a cultic factor but as a cultural factor, according to the French minister. She said that the rules applying to other athletes will be set by each international federation, under the supervision of the IOC. She added that there will be heterogeneity between sports.

The IOC has previously allowed Muslim athletes to wear hijabs at the Olympics, as long as they do not pose a risk to their safety or performance. For example, at the 2016 Rio Olympics, several Muslim women competed in various sports wearing hijabs, such as fencing, weightlifting, taekwondo and volleyball.

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