The freedom of the individual can easily come into conflict with his or her obligation to integrate in society. The present case provides a good example. That some restrictions of citizens’ freedoms must be accepted for a state to function and, more basically, persist is evident and that, as a consequence, certain demands, incorporated in criminal law, are made from citizens is acceptable. The issue to what extent such restrictions are justified has increasingly become a topic of discussion. The present case raises a number of important questions with respect to the right to wear a full-face veil in public if the societal norm is that the face should be visible, the most salient of which are whether women should be ‘protected’ from unequal treatment against their will and to what extent society may impose values on the individual. I will argue that the Belgian law places unwarranted restrictions on citizens and that the values behind it testify to an outlook that is difficult to reconcile with the freedom of conscience and religion.
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