“A signal against the headscarf”

Today, the Bundestag passed a law on the "appearance of civil servants" adopted. It is to regulate among other things the handling with tattoos again. The law also provides for possible headscarf bans. What will it change? MEDIENDIENST has spoken with experts.

Prospective teachers in seminar. Experts say that women who wear headscarves are already unsettled in their career planning by existing bans. The law could create further uncertainty. Photo: picture alliance (symbolic image)

Civil servants may be banned from wearing tattoos in the future In 2017, the Federal Administrative Court called for new legislation to ban visible tattoos on civil servants. The background was a lawsuit against a police officer who was stripped of his civil servant status because of right-wing extremist tattoos. or to openly display piercings. This is what a new law of the federal government amending the Federal Civil Servants Act provides for. Officials*innen are to be perceived as neutral and trustworthy, the reasoning goes. The law also includes possible bans on religious symbols and garments such as the headscarf or the kippah. Accordingly, federal and state administrations could prohibit civil servants from wearing headscarves in the future.

At state level, there are already headscarf regulations for female civil servants. They are guided by the rulings of the Federal Constitutional Court. In all federal states except Berlin, female teachers are generally allowed to wear a headscarf. In most federal states, however, female judges and public prosecutors are not allowed to wear headscarves in the courtroom.

Experts criticize the law

The new law provides a basis for headscarf bans in the federal and state governments, which have not previously existed in this form. It allows administrations to prohibit female civil servants from wearing headscarves under certain conditions The draft law states: "Religiously or ideologically connoted features of the appearance according to sentence 2 can only be restricted or prohibited if they are objectively suitable for impairing confidence in the neutral conduct of the civil servant's office." to ban. The exact form of the bans will be left up to the authorities in the federal states, says Maryam Kamil Abdulsalam, a lawyer at the Institute for Public Law at the University of Bonn. "This is problematic in several ways. It could be that the administrations prohibit more than necessary, making decisions sensitive to fundamental rights that should not be left to the administrations." Source bill of the Federal Government, pressure thing 19/26839, S. 12

The law does not specify the areas in which the headscarf ban can apply, criticizes Kamil Abdulsalam. "It makes a big difference whether it's a female judge or a female tax official wearing a headscarf.", says the lawyer. The Federal Constitutional Court justifies the headscarf ban for female legal trainees, for example, with the special situation in the courtroom: there is a highly formalized procedure and the judges wear robes as a sign of neutrality.

According to Kamil Abdulsalam, however, this does not apply to the normal day-to-day work of public authorities. There the religious need must be protected to carry a head cloth. Muslim women who wear a headscarf are already unsettled in their career planning by existing bans How headscarf bans affect those affected was examined by academics in 2018 in an expert report for MEDIENDIENST. . Such a law would lead to more uncertainty, says Kamil Abdulsalam.

"In practice, the law won't change much," says Kirsten Wiese, a professor of constitutional and administrative law at the Bremen University of Public Administration. The new regulation does not oblige administrations to ban the wearing of headscarves on duty across the board. In addition, administrations can already issue headscarf bans for female civil servants in individual cases, Wiese. However, the existing duties under civil service law are sufficient for this purpose. According to Wiese, the law is primarily a political signal against the headscarf.

Where are female civil servants allowed to wear headscarves??

Whether female civil servants are allowed to wear a headscarf in their office has repeatedly been the subject of constitutional court decisions. In 2020, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that a ban on headscarves for female legal trainees in the courtroom was legal. A Muslim trainee lawyer filed a lawsuit because, among other things, she was not allowed to sit on the bench because of her headscarf. In most federal states, female judges, prosecutors or trainee lawyers are not allowed to wear headscarves in the courtroom during their official duties.

In 2015, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that a general ban on headscarves for female teachers in public schools was inadmissible because it contradicted the fundamental right to freedom of belief. Since then, all German states except Berlin have allowed the headscarf for female teachers in principle. In 2020, the sweeping headscarf ban for female Muslim teachers in Berlin was also ruled unconstitutional by the Federal Labor Court. Discussions are now underway there to amend Berlin's neutrality law.

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