The Constitutional Affairs Committee [official website, in Italian], an Italian parliamentary commission, on Tuesday approved a draft law [text, PDF, in Italian; SB 2343 materials, in Italian] that bans women from wearing full-face veils, including the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] and niqab [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], in public. Women who violate the ban would face fines [AP report] of 100 to 300 euros. The ban would also punish individuals who force women to conceal their faces in public, instituting a fine against violators of 30,000 euro and up to 12 months in prison. Supporters of the ban say the new law will help Islamic women assimilate to Italian society, while opponents contend that the ban will "isolate devout Muslim women" who will be obligated to stay at home. Parliament will vote on the law after summer recess.
Italy is not the first EU country to enact legislation banning the wearing of full face veils in public. Last week, Belgium implemented a law banning women from wearing the burqa [JURIST report] in public, with violators facing the possibility of fines or up to seven days in jail. A French Muslim couple living in the UK filed a challenge [JURIST report] in June in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] over the French ban [materials, in French] on full face coverings. Also in June, a Spanish court upheld a city ban on veils in municipal buildings for identification and security purposes. In October, the French Constitutional Council ruled that the ban conforms with the Constitution [JURIST report]. Also in October, Dutch politician Geert Wilders [personal website, in Dutch] said that the Netherlands will ban the burqa [JURIST report] as part of the government's plan to form a minority coalition. In August 2010, Austria's conservative Freedom Party [official website, in German] called for a special vote [JURIST report] on whether to ban face veils and the construction of minarets, two of the most visible symbols of the Islamic faith. In July 2010, Spain's lower house of parliament rejected a proposal [JURIST report] to ban the burqa and other full face veils by a vote of 183 to 162 with two abstaining.