Europe

At-a-glance: Countries that have banned full-face veils

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Here are the countries around the world that have banned face veils or are in the process of banning them.

Denmark is the latest European country to ban the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces, which has been slammed by human rights campaigners.

The controversial new rule will take effect on 1 August.

Amnesty International slammed the move as "neither necessary nor proportionate and violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion."

Following the ruling, SBS News looks at the countries around the globe that have totally, or partially, banned the full-face veil.

National bans

Austria

In July 2016, Austria’s Freedom Party successfully pushed the town of Hainfield to ban the “burkini”, swimwear that covers the body.

Hainfield councillor said as quoted by Express: “It can be ensured, that no person wearing a burkini can enter the pool.

“In respect to the bathing rules, we are completely pleased with the adopted variant. 

“Nothing in particular has prompted the ban, however, the bathing rules have been in place for decades already.”

Belgium

Belgium has had a law in force that outlaws women from wearing any clothing that conceals the identity of the wearer, including the burqa and niqab, in public since 2011. The government passed the law almost unanimously – only two MPs voted against it.

Offenders can be put in jail for up to seven days or be required to pay a fine of about $200.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria banned full-face veils in most public places in 2016. Legislation by the Patriotic Front Coalition passed that makes it an offence to wear full-face veils in public institutions and government-service buildings. Those who breach the law face a fine of about $1,000 and suspension of social benefits.

The ruling GERB party said it was not aimed at any particular religion.

Bulgaria’s Muslim population, which makes up about 13 per cent of the total, has been in the country since Ottoman times.

Chad

Chad has banned women from wearing the full-face veil since June 2015, following twin suicide bomb attacks in the capital of N’Djamena that killed dozens of people.

Prime Minister Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet said the ban applied everywhere.

The BBC World Service's Africa editor Richard Hamilton said Boko Haram militants, the suspects in the twin attack, liked to use female suicide bombers in Nigeria because they were easier to smuggle into public places without detection.

Congo-Brazzaville

In May 2015, Congo-Brazaville banned full-face veils in public places.

The government said the ban was a security measure.

Denmark

Denmark banned the full-face veil in public spaces on May 31 in a ruling that will take effect on August 1. 

Wearing a burqa or niqab in public is punishable by a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156, 134 euros).

France

France made it illegal to wear clothing that covered one's face in 2011.

The principle of laïcité, or secularism, which forbids people from wearing any clothing that indicates any religion, was enshrined in French law in 1905 and validated constitutionally since the Constitution of the Fourth Republic in the mid-20th Century.

This year, 15 local governments banned burkinis, which caused Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to de-escalate tension between Muslims and other French people across the country.

"The implementation of secularism, and the option of adopting such decrees must not lead to stigmatisation or the creation of hostility between French people," Mr Cazeneuve said.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy supported the ban of the modest swimsuits.

"We don't imprison women behind fabric,'' he said in August.

Later that month the French Administrative Court ruled the burkini bans as unconstitutional.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands has had a partial ban on veils that cover women’s faces since May 2015 when the Dutch cabinet backed a bill introduced by Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk.

Veils are prohibited from education and healthcare institutions, government buildings and public transport but not the street.

In a statement, the government said it had: “tried to find a balance between people’s freedom to wear the clothes they want and the importance of mutual and recognisable communication”.

It added that “the bill does not have any religious background”.

In process

Egypt

In March 2016, Egypt’s parliament announced it would draft a law to ban full-face veils in public places and government institutions.

Member of Parliament Amna Nosseir said in a statement as quoted by Egypt Independent that Islamic attire such as the niqab is not required by Islamic Sharia and did not originate from Islam.

Ms Nosseir, a professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, said instead it came from the Arabian Peninsula before Islam and was traditionally Jewish.

Muslims comprise almost 95 per cent of Egypt's population, according to 2015 data from the Pew Research Center.

Regional bans

Cameroon

Cameroon banned the full-face veil in the Far North region of the nation following two suicide bomb attacks in 2015.

China

In February 2015, authorities prohibited full-face veils in the city of Urumqi in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

The area is home to a significant amount of China’s Uighur Muslim minority.

Muslims make up one per cent of China’s population, according to the Pew Research Centre.

Germany

Germany's southeastern state of Bavaria approved a ban in certain public spaces. These spaces include schools, universities, government workplaces and polling stations.

Italy

The town of Novara and the region of Lombardy have banned full face veils in 2016.

About 10 years ago, politicians in northern Italy reinstated law that prohibited face masks, which effectively bans veils such as the niqab and burqa.

Russia

The region of Stavropol has banned hijabs, which was upheld by Russia’s Supreme Court in 2013.

Chechnya authorities, however, have ignored Russian law with President Ramzan Kadyrov issuing an edict in 2007 that ordered women to wear headscarves in government buildings.

Spain

Barcelona, one of the most populous cities in Spain, has banned veils that covers faces in some public spaces including public markers and government offices. It extends to headgear such as motorbike helmets.

Barcelona City Council said it wanted to ensure people’s identities were not concealed.

Smaller cities in Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, have also banned the face wear. Although Spain’s Supreme Court overturned the ban in Lleida citing it impeded on religious freedom.

Switzerland

Bans already exist in some parts of the country such as the region of Ticino. Two people were fined in the first month of it coming into force, according to media reports. Offenders can be fined between $100 and $1,000.

As the policy came into place, the Saudi Arabia Embassy issued a warning to citizens planning to travel to Switzerland.

About five per cent of Switzerland’s eight million residents are Muslim.

France's Marine Le Pen refuses to wear a headscarf

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