municipality of Staffanstorp in 2019, arguing that it contravenes freedom of
Staffanstorp, in the county of Skåne, southern Sweden, where the Moderates rule in
coalition with the far-right Sweden Democrats, wanted to bar children from wearing
headscarves in preschools and primary schools up to year six, effectively banning
children under 12.
In Skurup, another municipality run by the Sweden Democrats, politicians had
pushed for a ban for children and staff in preschools and primary schools.
Parliament has previously shut down proposals to ban headscarves.
The parliament’s committee on the constitution has said that it has no plans for
legislation banning the item of clothing, either for children in particular schools or in
Both Skåne municipalities have been pursuing the headscarf issue for several years.
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
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
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‘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 a 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,’
Staffanstorp’s vote to ban headscarves in 2019 formed part of an ‘integration plan’ for
the town, which was drawn up by the centre-right Moderate Party and the populist
‘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.’
Seven out of 11 voted in favour of the measure in May 2019.
Pierre Sjöström, a councillor for the town’s Social Democrat opposition said Sonesson
was ‘foregrounding a non-problem’.
‘It’s just cosmetic. The Moderates don’t even know if we have pupils who wear
headscarves. This is a solution to a problem that we don’t have,’ he told the
Speaking to Swedish broadcaster SR, Andreas Lindholm, a lawyer for the Swedish
National Agency for Education, argued the measure was religious discrimination and
therefore contravened the law.
In February 2017 the Swedish government was forced to defend its decision to have
its officials wear headscarves during a trip to Iran, saying that failing to do so would
have broken the law.
Trade Minister Ann Linde led a business team that month and was criticized by
Swedish politicians for wearing the item.