The French National Assembly [official website, in French] on Tuesday began debate on a bill that would make it illegal to wear the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] or other full face veils in public. Under the bill, 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. French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie [official profile, in French] defended the legislation [Liberation report, in French] as modeling the spirit of republicanism, stating that the Koran's prescription of community dress is exemplified in the legislation. The National Assembly is scheduled to vote on the bill next Tuesday. If the bill passes in the lower house it will proceed to a vote in the Senate [official website, in French] in September.
Many jurisdictions are currently debating legislation that would ban the burqa. Last month, the Spanish Senate [official website, in Spanish] approved a motion [JURIST report] calling on the government to ban the use of full face veils in public places. In May, the Quebec legislature began hearings [CBC report] on a bill that would ban full face veils for public servants, while Australian lawmakers voted to end further discussion [JURIST report] on a bill that would have banned wearing the burqa. Also in May, 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.