Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Veiling bans can be counterproductive

Several countries are currently contemplating veiling bans, and some, such as France, have already adopted such measures. Their stated goal is to alleviate the oppression of veiled women within their communities, but it is also feared that it will only keep them away from public areas. Economists have always been suspicious of bans, as they are not efficient or can have adverse effects. They can contribute to the debate with some structured reasoning about this issue.

Jean-Paul Carvalho uses game theory to analyze veiling bans. The premise is that the recent rise of veils coincides with the Islamic renewal and is mostly voluntary. Indeed, veiled women are mostly new adoptees that started this despite oppositions from their mothers or husbands. They do it for three reasons: 1) they use the veil as a commitment device to remind themselves to avoid secular activities, 2) the veil is a signal to others that one is religious, 3) the veil is used to conform in a social group.

Now imagine that there are few religious people in the population. Then there is no veiling, as even the religious conform with the majority. With a larger religious population, their is veiling by that group only. And if that group is sufficiently large, everybody veils to conform. The interesting case is the middle one. If a veiling ban is imposed, if there is little return to deveiling, these women may segregate further by seeking reclusion in their group, where the returns from conformity become larger. The goal of the ban to expose them to more secularity would then fail completely.


Kansan said...

And yesterday someone argued that game theory was useless for policy...

bartleahdylan said...
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