The French National Assembly [official website, in French] on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution [text, in French] condemning the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] and other full face veils as contrary to gender equality. The resolution passed with 434 votes [AFP report, in French], with the remaining members of the 577-seat house abstaining. The passage of the resolution lays the groundwork for a complete ban on full face veils, with draft legislation to be presented to the Cabinet next week. The bill is then expected to go before parliament in July. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is pushing for the ban, despite the Council of State advising the government in March that a complete ban risks violating [JURIST reports] the French Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights [texts].
Last week, 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. The proposed legislation [materials, in French] applies to areas "accessible to the public" or areas meant for "public use or to provide public services." Violators could face a penalty of up to seven days in jail or a fine of 15 to 25 euros. The measure must now go before the Senate. In March, 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 [advocacy website] who argue that the law would not violate human rights [JURIST comment] and would promote the ideals of a free and democratic society.