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Second Swiss region votes in favor of ‘burqa ban’

Second Swiss region votes in favor of ‘burqa ban’
The majority of voters in Switzerland’s canton of St. Gallen have supported the prohibition of face-covering garments in public spaces, making it the second region in the country to introduce such a ban.

The northeastern region held a referendum on Sunday to decide whether stricter rules on the face veils are necessary, among other issues. Around 36 percent of the region’s half-million population came out to cast their votes, and nearly 67 percent of voters supported the new law, official results show.

St. Gallen, the fifth-most populous Swiss canton, will become the second region in the country to approve such a measure, following the example of the southernmost canton of Ticino. A complete ban on wearing burqas and niqabs in public places came in force in Ticino is 2016, with non-compliance punishable by fines ranging from 100 Swiss francs ($104) to 10,000 ($10,400). The Italian-speaking canton has a population of 350,000, around two percent of whom are Muslim. 

Last year, Swiss authorities rejected a popular campaign sponsored by a right-wing party calling for a nationwide ban on face veils, allowing the regions to decide individually on the matter.

However, such a vote may be held next year after the right-wing Swiss People’s Party reportedly gathered the 100,000 signatures required to put any subject to a referendum.

Switzerland is not the first country in Europe to vote on banning full-face veils, which is often said to target Muslims. After France pioneered a ban on full-face covers in 2010, Belgium followed in its footsteps, and similar measures were subsequently introduced by the Netherlands and Denmark.

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