“Contrary to our prediction, participants rated victims wearing a Muslim garment as more credible than those who did not wear a Muslim garment,” said Meagan McCardle of Memorial University.
“Also contrary to our prediction was the finding that covering the face fully did not have a significant effect on credibility ratings.”
Researchers from the Lancaster University in the UK and Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada found that “positive biases” are created when women testify in court with either their hair or face covered.
The study involved four videos featuring an actress which were shown to 120 participants.
Two videos showed the woman wearing either niqab or hijab, a third showed her wearing a balaclava and the fourth where her face and hair were uncovered.
In each video, the woman was filmed on the witness stand providing her testimony about a sexual assault she allegedly experienced.
The highest rating for credibility was given to the women wearing the niqab, followed by the hijab, then the balaclava and lastly the women with no face or head covering who was judged the least credible.
The researchers explained that the Muslim garment may dispel the common rape myth that the sexual assault victim was “asking for it”.
“Our findings lead to the provisional conclusion that whether or not a sexual assault victim chooses to cover her face while testifying in court does not seem to have any effect on credibility ratings,” said Professor Brent Snook from the varsity.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.