Two years after a so-called "burqa ban" was implemented in a region of Switzerland, new figures show that the measure may not have reached its targeted perpetrators.

In a statement released yesterday, the Government in Ticino said that they had only begun 37 legal proceedings and given out a few warnings since the law went into force in July 2016.

But rather than finding Muslim women who wear face covering veils such as the burqa or the niqab, Swiss police in the canton have ended up fining mask-wearing football fans instead.

Of the 10 cases since the beginning of the year, the majority occurred in the context of "sports hooliganism," the statement from Ticino's Department of Institutions said.


According to the Swiss news agency SDA-ATS, authorities have said that the number of Muslim women affected by the ban could be counted on one hand.

The data was released amid renewed controversy surrounding the burqa and other Islamic forms of face and head covering across Europe.

In Britain, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been called upon to apologise for comparing burqa-wearing women to "letter boxes," though he said he did not support banning the attire.

A number of European nations including France and Belgium have some form of ban on burqas on the books, while others, including Germany, have mooted the idea.

The Italian-speaking Ticino has a small population of over 350,000. It is the only canton in Switzerland to ban the burqa, but there is a campaign for a nationwide ban and polls show widespread public support for such a measure.

Ticino held a referendum in 2013 where it decided that it should ban the wearing of all face-covering garments in public. The law proposes a fine of at least 100 Swiss francs for covering the face in public, with certain exceptions for safety, health and Swiss traditions.

Though the law did not explicitly single out Muslim garments such as the burqa in its wording, the chief campaigner behind the measure, former journalist Giorgio Ghiringhelli, said at the time that the move was a move against "radical Islamism".

Speaking to the Swiss newspaper 20 Minuti this week, Ghiringhelli said that the low rates of burqa-wearing didn't effect his judgment of the issue. "We don't have to wait for the oxen to leave the stable before intervening," he said.


The widespread presence of burqas in a country does not appear to be prerequisite for a ban.

In 2016, as Germany debated a ban of Islamic face coverings, reporters struggled to find a single person who wore the all-covering burqa in the country (a small number of people, around 300, were estimated to wear the less restrictive niqab).

In France, where the burqa was banned in 2011, a study by the French Interior Ministry said that few women wore the burqa in the country and that only 2000 wore the niqab.

Sociologists who have studied the ban's effect on Muslim women said that many women who wore the veil before now stay home and don't venture outside.