Swedish Supreme Court reverses the schoolgirl headscarf ban

    A Supreme Court in Sweden has reversed the schoolgirl headscarf ban passed by the municipality of Staffanstorp in 2019, arguing that it denies freedom of expression laws.

    The court upheld a previous decision by the Administrative Court, emphasizing that the ban contradicts both Swedish and international law.

    “Being allowed to practice or show one’s religion is something that is protected by both the Instrument of Government and the European Convention,” President of the Court of Appeal, Dag Stegeland, said in a press release.

    Both Skurup and Staffanstorp municipalities had previously decided on a ban on wearing headscarves in school. In Skurup, the decision applies to both students and staff, and in Staffanstorp only to students.

    In a previous decision, the Administrative Court said the headscarf ban the two municipalities wanted to implement contravenes both the European Convention on Human Rights and protections on religious freedom under Swedish constitutional laws.

    The Supreme Court instead used Sweden’s freedom of expression law to back up its ruling, stating that expressions of religious affiliation, such as clothing, are covered by this.

    ‘Limiting the right to wear a headscarf has effects on individuals and is, therefore, a limitation of freedom of expression,’ Justice Ulrik von Essen said in the press release, as reported by The Local Sweden. 

    ‘For the limitation to be permitted, it must be supported by law. Such legal support is missing in national law and therefore the municipalities’ decision must be annulled,’ he said.

    ‘The headscarf is a symbol that women are not available. It’s a sexualisation of women and it’s unreasonable to do that to young girls,’ Christian Sonesson, the town’s Moderate Party mayor, told the local Sydsvenskan newspaper at the time. 

    ‘I have nothing against adult women wearing headscarves, but these are small children, little girls.’