In a nearly unanimous vote yesterday, the French senate approved a law banning any veils that cover the face, making France the first European country to pass such a measure. The ban pertains to the burqa, a full-body covering that includes mesh over the face, and the niqab, a full-face veil that leaves an opening only for the eyes, reports CNN.
The law, which was overwhelmingly approved by France’s lower parliament in July, passed by a vote of 246 to 1 and will go into effect next spring.
The original legislation came from a panel of French lawmakers who recommended a ban last year, and passed a non-binding resolution in May calling the full-face veil contrary to the laws of the nation. When enacted, the law will impose a fine of approximately $190 and/or a citizenship course for women wearing a niqab or a burqa. Additionally, any person forcing a woman to wear a full-face veil will face a year in prison or a $19,000 fine, said the French government.
In June of 2009, President Nicholas Sarkozy announced his opposition of full-face veils in a speech to a joint session of the French Parliament saying, “The burqa is not welcome in French territory…In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.” The speech was the first presidential address to the legislature in over a century.