Home > Public space > France > 2010-07-10 - Constitutional Council, n. 2010-613 DC

2010-07-10 - Constitutional Council, n. 2010-613 DC

Public space · France · Dress code

The Act banning the concealment of the face in public does not breach the Constitution

Key facts of the case - Before the Act prohibiting the face-covering in public space was definitely passed, a group of members of Parliament applied for the advice of the Constitutional Council about its conformity with the Constitution. The bill provides that “In the public space, nobody can wear dress intended to cover the face.”
According to the article 2, “the public space is constituted of public paths as well as places open to the public or used for a public service.”
Moreover, “the ban does not apply if the attire is prescribed or allowed by the legislative or regulatory provisions, if it is justified by health reasons or professional purpose, or if it is related to sporting practices, festivals or artistic or traditional events.”

Main reasoning of the court - The constitutional council refers to Articles 4, 5 and 10 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. It deems that the provisions of the future Act aim at answering to the raise of until now exceptional practices, consisting in hiding one’s face in public space. The Council retains that such practices may amount to a danger for public security and go against minimal demands of social life. Furthermore, the women hiding their face, voluntarily or not, are placed in a situation of exclusion and inferiority incompatible with the constitutional principles of freedom and equality. Through those legal provisions, the parliament only completed and generalized some previous rules so far applied to occasional situations.
The council concludes that the conciliation between the safeguard of public order and the constitutional rights at stake is not manifestly disproportionate.
Nevertheless the Council observes that the bill cannot restrict the exercise of the religious freedom in the places of worship open to public, without infringing Article 10 of the Declaration of 1789.
Besides the reservation expressed about the places of worship, the final conclusion is that the bill is in conformity with the Constitution.