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26 - Religious Modesty for Women and Girls

A Comparative Analysis of Legal Protections in France and the United States

from Part VII - International Perspectives

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2018

Robin Fretwell Wilson
Affiliation:
University of Illinois
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Summary

Modesty is an important source of self-expression, cultural identity, or religious affiliation in the lives of many men and women. This chapter explores religious modesty in a variety of contexts, beginning by comparing the French conception of laïcité to the more religious American civil society. It then examines French laws regulating religious modesty such as the 2004 ban on religious symbols in public schools, 2011 burqa ban, and 2016 burkini ban. These regulations speak to the idea that modesty is socially backward and oppressive. However, this chapter argues that by regulating religious garb, the French government is imposing its own form of coercion to solve a perceived religious coercion. Not only are such regulations logically inconsistent, but their effectiveness in promoting gender equality and public safety is also questionable. Turning to the US perspective, this chapter examines controversies surrounding religious modesty in public schools, at swimming pools, and in healthcare. This chapter elaborates on the differing public discourse regarding modesty and religious dress in France and in the United States, while arguing for broader religious freedom protections.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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