Austria Constitutional Court rules headscarf ban unconstitutional News
Austria Constitutional Court rules headscarf ban unconstitutional

The Constitutional Court of Austria ruled Friday that the ban on wearing headscarves in elementary schools is unconstitutional as a violation of the principle of equality in connection with an individual’s right to religious freedom.

Section 43a of the School Education Act of 1986 prohibited the wearing of any ideological or religious clothing involving the covering of the head until the age of 10. The purpose of the provision cites social integration of children in accordance with local customs and traditions and preservation of basic constitutional values as well as equality between men and women.

The provision was challenged by two students and their parents as a disproportionate interference with their right to religious freedom and religious child-rearing. The court declared the ban unconstitutional, stating that the provision violated the right to equality in connection with the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion since it only prohibited ideological or religious clothing that involved the “covering of the head.” It held that the ban was clearly selective in its approach and affected only a certain group of female students belonging to a certain religion.

The court observed that the provision defied its own stated objective of equality between men and women. According to the court, the selective prohibition of certain religious clothing carried the risk of complete exclusion of a select few students from schooling since the provision made it difficult for these students to access education without violating their religious traditions. The prohibition was also observed to be a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights of 1950, which requires a restriction on the freedom of religion to be proportionate and objectively constructed.