Tuesday 10 September 2013

Quebec's Charter Ban Targets Women

Ordinarily I try to stay out of politics, especially politics in areas where I don't have voting rights.  But the new Quebec Charter of Values is really pissing me off.

When I first heard about it, I assumed it was a publicity stunt since I didn't think anyone would actually be stupid enough to think this was a good idea.

For those who haven't been following, Quebec is proposing to ban all "overt religious symbols" from public service, including judges, police, prosecutors, public daycare workers, teachers, school employees, hospital workers and municipal personnel.  Specifically targeted items are: the kippa, the hijab, turbans, burkas and large crosses.

Here's a diagram of banned symbols (illustration from the charter):

A diagram from the charter of Quebec values website illustrating banned overt religious symbols for public employees.

Here's the diagram of permissible symbols (also from the charter):

A diagram from the charter of Quebec values website illustrating permitted religious symbols for public employees.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that non-Christian symbols are targeted much more intently than Christian symbols.  To me, this would be a slam dunk appeal to the right to practice religion without persecution.

The civil rights debate (or rather explanation of why the PQ can't do this) is being extensively covered and I don't need to weigh in on it.

What particularly bothers me is that the majority of the symbols and positions targeted are held by women.  Which means that the government of Quebec is actively discouraging non-Christian women from the public service.

I have problems with repressive cultures but I also know a fair number of Muslim women and for many of them, the hijab is a modesty issue.  To force them to go without it is like forcing any other woman to go topless.  Anyone can figure out that means they will likely quit their jobs or not apply rather than comply with the Charter.

As for those women who actually are being repressed, the Parti Quebecois wants to prevent them from gaining one of the few things which could actually help them become truly free: a steady source of independent income and benefits among a culturally diverse environment.

The blatant intolerance gives me the same feeling of disbelieving disgust that I felt when reading the Newcastle letter to the autistic family.  It is almost literally unbelievable that people still feel this is acceptable in today's society.

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