France

Fines and civic education proposed for burka-wearers

Reuters/AFP

France’s proposed law against the burka is set to propose fines or civic education for women wearing the all-covering garb, with tougher punishment for men who force their partner to adopt it. The government is to discuss a draft law on Wednesday.

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After months of debate on the law and a warning from the country’s highest court, the Conseil d’Etat, that it may be unconstitutional, Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie will propose details of the draft law to the cabinet. 

France 24 TV on burka law draft

Press reports say that they will include:

  • a 150-euro fine and/or a citizenship course for women wearing all-covering veils, known as burkas or niqabs;
  • a jail sentence of up to a year and fines of up to 15,000 euros on men who are proved to have forced their partner to don the garb;
  • a six-month educational campaign before the punishments come into effect in spring 2011. 

The law will ban anyone from wearing clothing which conceals their face in public places, including national or local government buildings, open spaces and streets.

But there will be exceptions. Motorcyclists’ helmets, surgical masks, police uniforms and carnival costumes will be exempt.

Last week the Conseil d’Etat, in a non-binding judgement, warned that the law’s premises are “not indisputable” and so give rise to “strong constitutional uncertainties”.

President Nicolas Sarkozy lashed out at the body during Monday’s meeting of his party’s MPs, one of them told the AFP news agency, reminding them that it had expressed reservations about former President Charles de Gaulle’s referendum to introduce direct election of the presidency.

The debate gave rise to two conflicting legal cases in the western town of Trignac on Saturday.

A dispute broke out between a woman wearing a niqab and another woman shopper after the latter commented that the law should be passed quickly.

The niqab-wearer has pressed charges for ethnic, religious or racial insult, while her opponent claims to have been slapped and is taking legal action for alleged assault. 

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