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Freethought Today · Vol. 27 No. 2 March 2010

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Women’s Group Protests Burqa: Sarah Braasch


Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores Nor Submissives), an international women’s rights group with headquarters in Paris, led protests Jan. 25-26 in front of the Parisian offices of two major political parties and France’s National Assembly. The protests were held to condemn the burqa and to support parliamentary efforts to establish a public burqa ban in France.

About a dozen women’s rights activists donned black burqas Jan. 26 and marched silently in front of the National Assembly while carrying pink placards denouncing the burqa. A protest was also held at the offices of the Union for a Popular Movement (President Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right party).

The group organized a similar protest the previous day in front of the offices of France’s Socialist Party after party leaders indicated their intention to vote against any law banning the burqa and/or the niqab in public.

About 20 activists donned black burqas and stood silently in front of the gates of the Socialist Party’s offices. Sihem Habchi, NPNS president, said, “We came to tell the progressive forces of France not to abandon women to the violence of the obscurantists.”

Ni Putes Ni Soumises organized the protests to demonstrate that its support of the burqa ban is an apolitical stance in defense of women’s rights as a universal human right without compromise.  

Public anticipation of a burqa ban has stoked strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Both the burqa and the niqab cover the face. The niqab leaves a slit that reveals the eyes.  

Ni Putes Ni Soumises is a grassroots feminist movement, which is led by the women and girls of the cités or quartiers of the banlieues (ghettoized suburban housing projects surrounding France’s major cities that are predominantly composed of marginalized Muslim immigrant communities). NPNS grew up out of a ferocious response by these women and girls to the violence being perpetrated against them and their sisters living in the quartiers.  

The group rejects suggestions that either or both the burqa and the niqab are in any way mandated by Islam. Most of the women leading the fight are Muslim themselves, and most of them hail from families from Sub-Saharan and North Africa. They are anti-cultural relativists. They condemn the burqa and the niqab as intolerable patriarchal traditions.

The Foundation’s summer 2008 legal intern, Sarah Braasch is a recent graduate of Fordham Law School and she is a James E. Tolan International Human Rights Fellow at Ni Putes Ni Soumises in Paris, France.

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