French Senate Votes Overwhelmingly to Ban Face Veils in Public Spaces

News Agencies – September 14, 2010
The French Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill banning full-facial coverings in public. Leaders of both parliamentary houses said they have asked a special council to first ensure the measure passes constitutional muster amid concerns its tramples on religious freedoms. The Senate voted 246 to 1 in favour of the bill, which has already passed in the lower chamber, the National Assembly. It will need President Nicolas Sarkozy’s signature.
“This law was the object of long and complex debates,” the Senate president, Gerard Larcher, and National Assembly head Bernard Accoyer said in a joint statement explaining their move. They said in a joint statement that they want to be sure there is “no uncertainty” about it conforming to the constitution. The measure affects approximately 2,000 women.
France would be the first European country to pass such a law though others, notably neighbouring Belgium, are considering laws against face-covering veils, seen as anathema to the local culture. The bill calls for 150 euro fines or citizenship classes for any woman caught covering her face, or both. It also carries stiff penalties for anyone such as husbands or brothers convicted of forcing the veil on a woman. The 30,000 euro fine and year in prison are doubled if the victim is a minor. It remains unclear how authorities planned to enforce such a law.