The European Court of Human Rights has heard the complaint of a 23-year-old French Muslim challenging the ban on full-face veil in France.
Based in the city of Strasbourg, the court heard on Wednesday arguments in the case of the French woman – known by the initials as SAS.
Ramby de Mello, the lawyer representing the 23-year-old, said the law violated her religious, free speech and privacy rights and made her feel “like a prisoner in her own country,” arguing that the veil is “as much part of her identity as our DNA is of ours.”
According to the court, she has said that the ban has given rise to “discrimination based on gender, religion and ethnic origin, to the detriment of women who, like herself, wear the full-face veil.”
She has also said the niqab (face-covering veil) and the burka body covering are in accordance with her “religious faith, culture and personal convictions.”
She highlights that she is not under any pressure from her family to wear hijab.
SAS, who is described as a French national born in 1990, sued the French State in 2011 after legislation banning people from covering their faces in public places took effect.
The law was adopted when former President Nicolas Sarkozy was in office in 2010.
The development comes as Paris appeals court upheld the controversial sacking of a childcare worker, identified as Fatima Afif, who declined to remove her Islamic headscarf at work.
Baby Loup nursery school, in the Paris suburb of Chanteloup-les-Vignes, sacked Afif in 2008 under the nursery’s private rules.
Since the law was imposed in 2010, attacks targeting Muslim women in France have been on the rise, with veil-offenders facing fines of up to 150 euros (about $200).
French authorities claim the law is needed to protect the secular traditions of the country and for security reasons.
The French law has been condemned by some human rights campaigners and Amnesty International has argued that it infringes women’s “rights to freedom of expression and religion.”
France is home to the largest Muslim population in Western Europe. Nearly 10 percent of the 62 million people living in France are Muslim.