- September 2016 : Denial of services based on religion
In September, Jaeren District Court delivered its verdict in the case of a hairdresser accused of denying a hijab-clad woman access to her salon. The hairdresser also allegedly verbally abused the woman, who complained to the anti-discrimination ombudsman. The ombudsman found the hairdresser guilty of discriminatory treatment under the Ethnicity Anti-Discrimination Act, §6.
Additionally, the state prosecutor charged her with the violation of the Penal Act §186, under which the denial of services on the basis of skin color or ethnicity, religion, homosexual orientation or disability is prohibited and punishable with fines or imprisonment up to six months. Citing the hairdresser’s extensive online antagonism against Muslims and Islam, the court found her claims that her opposition to the hijab was solely motivated by the political connotations of the garment and her discomfort with encountering hijab-clad women unconvincing, handing down a fine of NOK 10 000 (approx. EUR 1100). The case has been appealed, and the hairdresser and her lawyer have signaled their intent to take the case all the way to Strasbourg if necessary.
- September 2016 : Conscientious objection beyond military service
Since 2013, the limits of conscientious objections, in particular for health workers, has been an ongoing concern in politics and the public debate. While the majority of the debate has circled around the rights of medical doctors to refuse to refer women to hospitals for abortion, the recently adopted law on the ritual circumcision of baby boys has also sparked a sharp rise in conscientious objections by surgeons. Recently, the debate has taken an unexpected turn, as a nursing student asked to be exempt from serving pork during her practice placement, a request that was turned down and met with wide disapproval.
To better clarify the limits of the conscientious objector status, a government-appointed commission submitted its recommendations in September, 2016. The commission stressed the need to preserve objector status only for deeply held convictions, and recommended a mixed approach between legally established rights to exemption and locally adapted solutions.
- September 2016 : Restrictions on the full face veil
For several years, the question of prohibiting the niqab, the Muslim full face veil, has been percolating in the Norwegian public debate. Following the S.A.S. v. France decision of the European Court of Human Rights (2014) (see Europe > 2014 Current debates), where the French ban on wearing the niqab in public was upheld, the debate briefly reawakened, but failed to gain traction. After scattered incidents where students at universities and colleges have been dismissed for their use of the garment, the debate has become more entrenched, leading to discussions of the ban in parliament in 2015 and to an increasing debate in the fall of 2016, as political parties position themselves before the upcoming parliamentary election in 2017. As of September 2016, statements by leaders of the major political parties on the need to restrict the use of the niqab in educational institutions seem to indicate a parliamentary majority in favor of a limited ban.