The Spanish Senate [official website, in Spanish] on Wednesday approved a motion [press release, in Spanish] calling on the Spanish government to ban the use of full face veils in public places. The motion, passed by a vote of 131 to 129, would ban use of both the burqa and niqab [JURIST news archives]. The motion was approved one week after Spanish Justice Minister Francisco Caamano [official profile, in Spanish] indicated that the Spanish government planned to introduce legislation [JURIST report] banning the burqa as part of Spain's Religious Freedom Bill. Supporters of the motion claim that it represents a positive step towards equality for women [AFP report], while opponents are concerned that regulation of the burqa under the Religious Freedom Bill could lead to regulation [El Pais report, in Spanish] of other religious symbols. Also on Wednesday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) [official website] voted unanimously to reject [press release] any general prohibition on the wearing of the burqa or other religious clothing. PACE indicated that while such laws may seem to benefit women, they deny women "who genuinely and freely desire to do so" the right to cover their faces as part of their religious expression. PACE firmly renounced the subjugation of women through the forced wearing of the veil and also acknowledged that some legal restrictions on face coverings might be necessary for security purposes.
Many jurisdictions continue to consider legislation banning the burqa. Earlier this month, the Barcelona city council [official website, in Catalan] passed a ban on face coverings in all public places [JURIST report]. Last month, Australian state lawmakers voted to end debate [JURIST report] on a bill that would have banned the wearing of the burqa or other face veils in public. Also last month, the French Cabinet approved legislation [JURIST report] that would ban the wearing of the burqa or other face veils in public. The same week the French Cabinet voted, hearings began [CBC report] in Quebec's legislature on a bill introduced in March that would ban women from wearing full face veils from public services. Earlier last month, 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.