Sweden’s SC overturns schoolgirl hijab ban, saying it denies ‘freedom of expression’

Sweden’s Supreme Court has reversed the schoolgirl headscarf ban passed by the municipality of Staffanstorp in 2019, arguing that it contravenes freedom of expression laws, the media reported.

Staffanstorp, in the county of Skane, southern Sweden, where the Moderates rule in coalition with the far-right Sweden Democrats, wanted to bar children from wearing headscarves in pre-schools and primary schools up to year six, effectively banning children under 12, Daily Mail reported.

In Skurup, another municipality run by the Sweden Democrats, politicians had pushed for a ban for children and staff in preschools and primary schools, Daily Mail reported.

The parliament’s committee on the constitution has said that it has no plans for legislation banning the item of clothing, either for children in particular schools or in wider society.

Both Skane municipalities have been pursuing the headscarf issue for several years.

In a previous decision, the Administrative Court said the headscarf ban the two municipalities wanted to implement contravenes both the European Convention on Human Rights and protections on religious freedom under Swedish constitutional laws.

The Supreme Court instead used Sweden’s freedom of expression law to back up its ruling, stating that expressions of religious affiliation, such as clothing, are covered by this, Daily Mail reported.

“Limiting the right to wear a headscarf has effects on individuals and is therefore a limitation of freedom of expression,” Justice Ulrik von Essen said in a press release, as reported by The Local Sweden.

“For the limitation to be permitted, it must be supported by law. Such legal support is missing in national law and therefore the municipalities’ decision must be annulled,” he said.

Staffanstorp’s vote to ban headscarves in 2019 formed part of an “integration plan” for the town, which was drawn up by the centre-right Moderate Party and the populist Sweden Democrats.

‘The headscarf is a symbol that women are not available. It’s a sexualisation of women and it’s unreasonable to do that to young girls,” Christian Sonesson, the town’s Moderate Party mayor, told the local Sydsvenskan newspaper at the time.

“I have nothing against adult women wearing headscarves, but these are small children, little girls.”

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