The French Senate [official website, in French] on Tuesday voted 246 to 1 [press release, in French] 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 bill was approved [JURIST report] by the National Assembly [official website, in French] in July. The legislation will now be handed over to the the Constitutional Council [official website], which will have one month to confirm the law's legality. Those that oppose the legislation, such as Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website], may still challenge the law [BBC report] in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which has the ability to render a binding opinion on France.
Legislation banning the use of Islamic burqas has been a point of contention recently in many countries. Last month, Austria's conservative Freedom Party [official website, in German] called for a special vote [JURIST report] on whether to ban face veils and the construction of minarets, two of the most visible symbols of the Islamic faith. In July, Spain's lower house of parliament rejected a proposal [JURIST report] to ban the burqa and other full face veils by a vote of 183 to 162 with 2 abstaining. Also in July, UK Immigration Minister Damian Green [official profile] indicated in an interview that Britain's coalition government would not seek or support a British law banning the wearing of the Islamic burqa or other face coverings in public. Green stated that banning the burqa would not be consistent with British society, where mutual respect for differences among cultures is important.