(Re-)Characterizing Headscarf and Veil Bans as Harassment

This paper considers the possibility of using the prohibition of harassment under European anti-discrimination laws to fight the legality of headscarf bans. In fact, so far Muslim women have been unsuccessful in litigating such bans both before the ECtHR and CJEU. Rather than configuring these cases as violations of religious freedom or direct/indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion, this paper considers whether one could (re)characterize them as sexual, religious and/or racial harassment, which under European anti-discrimination law are deemed to be discrimination, too. The harassment frame has certain advantages: it requires no comparator, justification or balancing with rights of others is less possible and it provides a stronger conceptual link with a violation of dignity.