[JURIST] A spokesperson for French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French; BBC profile] said Wednesday that the president is in favor of a complete public ban on the burqa [JURIST news archive] and other full face veils and will be submitting a bill to parliament in May. According to spokesperson Luc Chatel, Sarkozy wants the ban to be carried out in a way that doesn't stigmatize individuals for their religious beliefs and practices, but he feels that the veils are oppressive and harm female dignity [Reuters report]. In addition to the bill, parliament will also be discussing a separate resolution on May 11, which will discuss ways of limiting the use of full veils. The issue has sparked debate with feminists supporting the ban because it prevents women from being forced into wearing the veils, and others questioning the proposed ban's constitutionality. France houses the largest Muslim population in the European Union [official website] with Muslims comprising about 10 percent of the total French population.
Last month, the French Council of State advised the French government against a complete ban [JURIST report] on full Islamic veils because it risks violating the French Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. France already has a partial ban that prevents public officials from wearing veils while operating in their official capacity and also prohibits veils in public schools. Critics of the ban say the law would alienate France's Muslim minority [JURIST comment] and violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text], of which France is a signatory. Last month, lawmakers in Quebec introduced a bill [Star report] that would ban women from wearing full face veils from public services, which garnered support from members of the Muslim Canadian Congress who argue that the law would not violate human rights [JURIST comment] and would promote the ideals of a free and democratic society. Also last month, a Belgian parliamentary committee voted unanimously [JURIST report] to completely ban the wearing of full veils in public. If approved, Belgium will be the first European nation to impose a nationwide restriction on traditional face-covering veils.