Switzerland to ban burqa. Peruvian won right to die. Supermarket sued for deforestation.

Updated: Apr 1

Switzerland to ban the burqa and other facial coverings.

Switzerland voted in a referendum to implement a ban on "full facial coverings", despite opposition from the government and the parliament. Under the proposal, no one would be allowed to fully cover their face in the public.

A ban on face-covering is not uncommon in Europe, but so far, the results of these bans have been questionable. In Denmark, a similar ban came into effect in 2018, and 23 people were fined under the ban in the first year. The one set up in Austria did little to unify the society but it did lead to men in mascots being fined for covering their faces.

Further, the coronavirus pandemic has brought the question of whether the burqa ban is now outdated, as most countries have mandated the public to cover their faces. This mask-wearing mandate is a clear contradiction to the burqa ban and the argument that faces must be shown for public security reasons. Of course, it is worth noting that the West has not seen a sudden surge in terrorism as people covered their faces.

The historian would note that humans love to impose their opinions on what others should be wearing. Up until 1993, women were not allowed to wear pants on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Today, some Japanese companies continue to mandate that women must wear heels.

We also believe problems in our societies can be solved by banning symbols, like the times when Ukraine banned communist symbols to stop Russian influence and when Germany banned the swastika expecting that Nazism would disappear for good.

Peruvian woman won the right to die.

A woman suffering from polymyositis, an incurable disease that attacks muscles, has made history by winning the right to an assisted death in the predominantly Catholic country of Peru. The woman, who has been keeping a blog called "Ana seeks dignified death" since 2016, said she will seek her death when she can no longer write.

For decades, activists have pushed for the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. They argued that people should have the freedom to choose their path, especially as they suffer from pain and diseases. On the other hand, those against legalization argued that medical professionals should not be asked to decide whether a patient should live or die. This is often a dilemma, as shown during the current pandemic when doctors had to decide who to save and who not to save.

The world is increasingly open to legalizing assisted deaths. Euthanasia, defined as the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease, was first made legal in the Netherlands in 2002. It is now also legal in Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, Colombia.

On the other hand, assisted suicide, or the suicide of a patient suffering from an incurable disease by taking lethal drugs, is legal in Switzerland, Germany, the state of Victoria in Australia, and a few states in the U.S.

With the world aging rapidly, surely this will not be the last time we hear about this.

Retailer sued by indigenous people over Amazon rainforest destruction.

French supermarket chain Casino is being sued by 11 indigenous groups from the Amazon rainforest. They accused Casino of working with three slaughterhouses that have sourced cattle from suppliers who are responsible for deforestation. Under French legislation, businesses must avoid human rights and environmental violations in their supply chains.

In recent years, the Amazon rainforest has been under intense pressure, as the rainforest is cleared to create space for cattle ranching and soybean plantations. Between 1987 and 2018, world soybean production increased by 2.5 times, even though the world population only increased by 50% during the same period. Brazil is now the second-largest soy producer in the world.

The indigenous groups, backed by NGOs from the US and France, are seeking €3.1m (US$ 3.7m) in damages. Is this sufficient? A recent research estimated that reforestation of the rainforest would cost $3,000 per hectare. As such, it would take roughly $150 million to revert the damages done to those 50,000 hectares, or roughly five times the size of Paris.

But if the court rules against Casino, it may just open the door to more lawsuits, and companies may even start to care more.

This article is part of the Making History This Week series.