Belgium can legally place Muslim women wearing a face veil in jail, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled this week.
The court said that its decision was in the interest of protecting "the rights and freedoms of others," according to The Telegraph. But, apparently, individuals who wish to hide their faces no longer have the freedom to do so without risking fines and up to seven days in jail.
In 2011, Belgium passed the controversial ban, becoming the second EU country to impose criminal penalties for Muslim women’s attire, according to VICE. Three Muslim women filed a suit against the Belgian ban, arguing that it infringed on their religious freedom.
All three of the Muslim women wore the niqab before the ban went into effect. One removed the veil, fearing she would be jailed or fined. Another decided to remain mostly at home, avoiding going out after the ban was implemented.
"The court found that the concern to ensure respect for the minimum guarantees of life in society could be regarded as an element of the 'protection of the rights and freedoms of others' and that the ban was justifiable in principle, solely to the extent that it sought to guarantee the conditions of 'living together'," the EU Human Rights' court ruling said, according to BBC.
The women can appeal the court's decision within three months.
Supporters of the ban argue that it addresses security concerns. Less than six percent of Belgium's population is Muslim, with no official statistics on how many women choose to wear the niqab. Opponents say it is a very tiny number, arguing that policing this minority does nothing to protect security.
The court's ruling follows a similar ruling on the face veil in France and a ruling regarding religious attire in the workplace earlier this year.
In March, Europe's highest court – the European Court of Justice – ruled in favor of workplaces banning religious attire, saying that it did not constitute discrimination as long as one particular religion or ideology was not targeted.