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25 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 463 (2018)


Many secular Western countries have adopted some form of legislation regulating a woman's ability to wear traditional "Islamic" coverings. These governments often cite concerns for gender equality to justify the regulations. Although it is certainly true that some women are forced to wear hijab, many women cover by choice. These women's choices may be rooted in their faith, but the decisions are also commonly linked to other factors like culture. Thus, this Note argues, regulations that prevent a woman from choosing how to dress do not enhance her rights. Rather, the regulations replace a feared authoritarian man with an overly paternalistic government. The conflict between Western choice feminism, secularism, and hijab was readily prevalent in the summer of 2016, when some French beaches implemented the so-called "Burkini Ban." Though the local governments contended the bans were based on concerns for secularism and hygiene, this Note argues the policies are more easily explained by widespread Islamophobia. Ultimately, this Note concludes Western countries' attempts to force choice feminism on a religion-or perhaps more appropriately a culture-they do not fully understand actually hinders progress toward gender equality.