French parliament debates burqa ban

Paris, France — The French parliament begins debate Tuesday on a bill that would ban women from wearing Islamic veils, such as the burqa, that fully cover the face and body.

A vote is not expected until next week, after which the measure, if passed, will go to the French Senate for a vote likely in the fall.

The French Council of Ministers approved the measure in May, saying veils that cover the face “cannot be tolerated in any public place.” Their approval sent the bill to parliament.

The parliamentary debate starting Tuesday is the latest step in France’s efforts to ban the burqa, niqab and other Muslim garments that cover a woman’s face.

A panel of French lawmakers recommended a ban last year, and lawmakers unanimously passed a non-binding resolution in May calling the full-face veil contrary to the laws of the nation.

“Given the damage it produces on those rules which allow the life in community, ensure the dignity of the person and equality between sexes, this practice, even if it is voluntary, cannot be tolerated in any public place,” the French government said when it sent the measure to parliament in May.

The bill envisions a fine of 150 euros ($190) and/or a citizenship course as punishment for wearing a face-covering veil.

Forcing a woman to wear a niqab or a burqa would be punishable by a year in prison or a 15,000-euro ($19,000) fine, the government said, calling it “a new form of enslavement that the republic cannot accept on its soil.”

The measure would take effect six months after passage, giving authorities time to try to persuade women who veil themselves voluntarily to stop.

The French Council of State has warned that the ban could be incompatible with international human rights law and the country’s own constitution. The council advises on laws, but the government is not required to follow its recommendations.

Amnesty International urged French lawmakers in May not to approve the ban. Read more.

Source: CNN

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