The Vatican says the Catholic Church has been defending a ban on full-body veils worn by Muslim women for more than a century, and has been working to ensure religious freedom for people from other faiths.
The Vatican has defended the burqa, which is the Islamic headscarf worn by some Muslim women, saying it was not a “political statement” and that its purpose was religious freedom.
The Church’s chief spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said the ban was needed to protect the human dignity of women, including the rights of women to express themselves and to form their own opinions.
“We do not believe that there is a right to wear a burqa in public,” Lombardi told reporters on a conference call.
“It is not a political statement, but a religious one.”
A recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said the burka was the “most effective and cost-effective way to prevent violence against women.”
The report noted that the full-face veil is one of the most common types of clothing worn by women.
The International Commission of Jurists, which advises the Vatican, said it was important to respect religious freedom, but said wearing a full-bodys-covering headscarff was “a form of political expression” that should be limited to the Catholic community.
The Commission said women’s burqas were “inherently linked to their identity, belonging and place in society.”
“The full-hood veil does not impose any particular religious or cultural norms,” the report said.
“They simply reflect the universal human right to freedom of conscience, including to choose one’s religion or belief.”
The Vatican also said the full body veil was a sign of respect and that religious symbols should not be “disassociated from the person or the community.”