Wednesday, 15 September 2010

French Senate votes to ban the burqa

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The French ban on wearing the full veil in public, which was voted through the lower house of the French parliament in July, was passed overwhelmingly by the upper house, the Senate, by 246 votes to 1 yesterday. The legislation will come into effect in a month, provided its legality is confirmed by French Constitutional Council, with those breaking the law facing €150 fines. Men judged to have forced their wives to wear the burqa could be fined €30,000 and jailed for a year.

Obviously this a hugely controversial piece of legislation (except, it would seem, in the eyes of 99.6% of French senators), and it remains to be seen, if it is deemed constitutional, how exactly it would be implemented. With other European countries, such as Spain and Belgium, considering similar bans, the debate is bound to continue over whether Britain should follow suit (although immigration minister Philip Green has already ruled it out, saying it would be "rather un-British").

It's something we cover in our current issue with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Kenan Malik going head to head on the subject. Alibhai-Brown says we should stand up to the oppression of women and support human rights by banning it here, while Malik argues that doing so would be self-defeating and illiberal. You can read the debate in full online, so have a look at both arguments before voting, if you haven't already done so, in our poll on whether Britain should ban the burqa. We opened it a couple of weeks ago and as you'll see it's a close run thing at the moment.

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