The French National Assembly [official website, in French] on Tuesday voted 336-1 to approve a bill [materials, in French] that would make it illegal to wear the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] or other full face veils in public. Under the legislation, women who wear the veil can be required by police to show their face, and, if they refuse, they can be forced to attend citizenship classes or be charged a USD $185 fine. The proposed legislation would also make it a crime to force a woman to cover her face, with a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of USD $18,555. The National Assembly began debate on the bill last week, after the French cabinet approved the legislation [JURIST reports] in May. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] condemned the vote [press release] stating, "A complete ban on the covering of the face would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burqa or the niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs." The bill will now proceed to a vote in the Senate [official website, in French], which is currently scheduled for September.
Many jurisdictions are currently debating legislation that would ban the burqa. Last month, the Spanish Senate [official website, in Spanish] approved a motion [JURIST report] calling on the government to ban the use of full face veils in public places. In May, the Quebec legislature began hearings [CBC report] on a bill that would ban full face veils for public servants, while Australian lawmakers voted to end further discussion [JURIST report] on a bill that would have banned wearing the burqa. Also in May, European Parliament [official website] Vice President Silvana Koch-Mehrin [official website, in German] expressed her support for a continent-wide burqa ban [JURIST report]. In April, the Belgian House of Representatives voted 136-0 to approve [JURIST report] a bill that would ban the burqa and other full face veils in public.