15 Jul 2010

France moves to ban full-length veils in public

9:13 pm on 15 July 2010

The lower house of parliament in France has voted to ban full-length veils in public places.

There were 335 votes for the bill and only one against in the 557-seat National Assembly. To become law, it must now be ratified by the Senate.

Fines of 150 euros are envisaged for women who break the law and 30,000 euros and a year's jail for men who force their wives to wear the burqa.

After the vote, Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said it was a victory for democracy and for French values.

The BBC reports the ban has strong public support but only a tiny minority of French Muslims wear the full veil.

The niqab and burka are widely seen in France - home to Europe's largest Muslim minority (about five million people) - as threats to women's rights and the secular nature of the state.

Belgium's lower house of parliament voted in April to ban all clothing that covers or partially covers the face.