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April 25, 2013

Niqab ban in sexual assault trial causes controversy

Canadians split on judge's decision over ongoing case.
Still from "Uproar in Canada over face-veil ban", Al Jazeera English. 18 April 2010.

A Canadian woman filing charges of sexual assault will be required to remove her niqab to testify against her alleged attackers. On Wednesday, a Toronto judge ruled that the woman's niqab (or face veil) “masks her demeanour and blocks...effective cross-examination by counsel for the accused". The decision applies to the preliminary hearings where she is expected to face her uncle and cousin, whom she accuses of sexually abusing her during her childhood.

The woman, known as "NS", has fought the Canadian court to wear her niqab during hearings since the case began. A five-year series of decisions and appeals led all the way to the country's supreme court, which ruled in 2012 that the issue should be decided on a case-by-case basis. The supreme court ruling requires the provincial court to consider both the weight of the individual's "religious conviction" and the impact on trial fairness before issuing a decision for the niqab to be removed. "NS" plans to appeal the most recent decision.