That is the question on the table in France at the moment and I am fascinated with what is happening there.
The question and discussion about whether to ban the public wearing of the burqa in France has been going on for a while, but last Wednesday, President Sarkozy told the National Assembly to draft a resolution that would condemn the wearing of the full burqa in public as an affront to women’s rights.
Democracy, dignity and gender equality are a few of the main pushes for drafting the beginnings of a resolution that would need to be passed by Parliament.
Currently, a parliamentary commission has held hearings and debates about the subject and is expected to release a report on January 26th.
Many French lawmakers have cautioned that a ban on the public wearing of the burqa would be difficult to enforce and could end up in the EU human rights court.
I’m particularly interested in this because I’ve moved into a large grey area on the subject since living in Mauritius.
Before I moved here, I would have thought and said that even discussing such a thing showed a complete lack of understanding for another culture, religion and way of living; however, having lived in Mauritius for a while, my view has changed a bit.
There are some women who wear the full burqa here in Mauritius.
One day while I was talking a late morning walk on the beach, I walked past a woman wearing the burqa. She was standing on the beach watching her two children play and swim in the sea.
It was 31C that day and she was covered from head to toe. I stopped walking and took in the scene thinking to myself, “Dang! She has to be sweating buckets underneath all that fabric and it’s black to boot! Whew.”
I kept thinking about her after I passed her by and wondered if she would just like to rip it off and dive into the sea spray.
My argument before moving to Mauritius would have been to say, “Of course she wouldn’t want to remove it. It’s part of her culture and her identity. It’s all she’s ever known and people that are not from that culture have no place in saying whether it’s right or wrong or just too plain sweaty.”
But, after I passed her on the beach I realized that I would never be able to ‘see’ her again. I wouldn’t be able to recognize her if I did ever see her again because I have absolutely no clue what she looks like.
Her husband (I’m assuming he was her husband) was at the beach that day, as well. He was sitting under the shade of some trees further up from the actual beach waving and talking to her and to the kids. I suppose I would recognize her again if she was with him. Unless he was with some other woman in a burqa, then I’d be back to the unknown.
And this is where I kind of got that nudging feeling deep on the inside when I again realize that the world is a very big place and that maybe my earlier beliefs need to be expanded and challenged a bit.
That woman had absolutely no unique identity to me. Who was she? She was a person that I saw that I have no memory of whatsoever unless I saw her with the man she was with that day, and it’s this lack of personal identity that has me sitting in the grey.
I’ll be curious to see what happens at the end of the month when the French report is released.
But, it always fascinates me that there are such hot topics out there that seem to focus on what a woman can or cannot do or should or should not do.
Signing off as ‘Pilgrim the Grey’ as I head off to the sea in my bright red bikini.