State Paternalism and Religious Dress Code

International Journal of Constitutional Law (I-CON) Vol. 10, No. 2, 398-410

13 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2011 Last revised: 12 Oct 2012

See all articles by Cecile Laborde

Cecile Laborde

Nuffield College, Oxford University

Date Written: August 21, 2011


This paper criticises the paternalist argument for bans on gender-specific restrictive religious dress. This posits that the prohibition on the wearing of hijab in schools assists the emancipation and autonomy of young girls. In the first section, I briefly summarize the republican paternalist position against the hijab, and explain why it is flawed, in light of a critical republican ideal of non-domination. In the second section of the paper, I expand the argument, and apply it to recent controversies about the wearing of the niqab (full face covering). I argue that the so-called ‘burqa ban’ in France (13 July 2010) suffers from even graver flaws than the 2004 hijab ban, to the extent that it extends paternalistic coercion from children to adults. More generally I explore the question as to whether, if there are relevant differences between hijab and niqab, they have a bearing on the normative case against legal regulation.

Suggested Citation

Laborde, Cecile, State Paternalism and Religious Dress Code (August 21, 2011). International Journal of Constitutional Law (I-CON) Vol. 10, No. 2, 398-410, Available at SSRN:

Cecile Laborde (Contact Author)

Nuffield College, Oxford University ( email )

1 New Road
Oxford, OX1 1NF
United Kingdom

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