Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte [official profile] announced on Friday that the government will propose legislation to ban burqas [JURIST news archive] and other face coverings. The proposal is being submitted in cooperation with conservative politician Geert Wilders [official website, in Dutch; JURIST news archive] and the Party for Freedom [party website]. The government contends that the proposed legislation does not represent a restriction on religious freedom but rather is an attempt to promote gender equality [Reuters report]. Wilders announced his plans to ban burqas [JURIST report] last October.
A similar ban on burqas recently took effect in Belgium [JURIST report] in July. The French Constitutional Council [official website, in French] approved another similar bill making it illegal to wear burqas [JURIST report] in public last October, and the burqa ban went into effect in April [JURIST report]. A French Muslim couple filed a challenge to the burqa ban [JURIST report] in the European Court of Human Rights [official website] in June. In August 2010 Austria's conservative Freedom Party [party website, in German] called for a special vote [JURIST report] on whether burqas and the construction of minarets should be prohibited. In July 2010 Spain's lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies [official website, in Spanish] rejected a proposal to ban burqas and other face veils [JURIST report]. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [official website] voted unanimously to reject [JURIST report] any general prohibition on the wearing of the burqa or other religious clothing.