Spanish Justice Minister Francisco Caamano [official profile, in Spanish] said Tuesday that the Spanish government plans to introduce legislation to ban the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] in public places. The measure will be included in Spain's Religious Freedom Bill, which would also prohibit religious symbols, such as crucifixes, in state-owned buildings. Caamano said that the reasons for the impending ban are twofold [AFP report]. The government holds that burqas impede identification in public places and that the ban is necessary to ensure public safety and security. Additionally, Caamano stated that burqas are not "compatible" with human dignity and that the government has the responsibility to protect women from being degraded. Caamano's statement comes one day after the Barcelona city council [official website, in Catalan] passed a ban on face coverings in all public places [JURIST report]. Barcelona Mayor Jordi Hereu indicated that the ban was put in place out of a concern for public safety, and was not aimed at any particular religious group. Barcelona is the first major city in Spain to ban face coverings in municipal areas, although several smaller cities have already imposed or are considering similar restrictions.
Many jurisdictions continue to consider legislation banning the burqa. 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.