French parliament votes to ban veil

France’s lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban wearing the Islamic full veil in public. There were 335 votes for the bill and only one against in the 557-seat National Assembly. It must now be ratified by the Senate in September to become law.

Many of the opposition Socialists, who originally wanted the ban limited only to public buildings, abstained from voting after coming under pressure from feminist supporters of the bill.

After the vote, Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said it was a victory for democracy and for French values. “Values of freedom against all the oppressions which try to humiliate individuals; values of equality between men and women, against those who push for inequality and injustice.”

“Democracy thrives when it is open-faced,” Ms Alliot-Marie told the National Assembly when she presented the bill last week.

The Council of State, France’s highest administrative body, warned in March that the law could be found unconstitutional. If the bill passes the Senate in September, it will be sent immediately to France’s Constitutional Council watchdog for a ruling. Another challenge is possible at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where decisions are binding.

BBC News, 14 July 2010

See also “France vote to ban full-face veils condemned by Amnesty”,Amnesty press release, 13 July 2010