Belgian ban on full veils comes into force

Veiled women MPs voted to ban veils on the grounds of security

Related Stories

A law has come into force in Belgium banning women from wearing the full Islamic veil in public.

The country is the second European Union nation after France to enforce such a ban. Offenders face a fine of 137.5 euros (£121; $197) and up to seven days in jail.

Two women who wear full veils launched an immediate court challenge, saying the law is discriminatory.

France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim population, enforced its ban in April.

Belgium's law bans any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer in places like parks and on the street.

It was passed almost unanimously by the lower house of parliament in April 2010.

MPs voted with only two abstentions to back the legislation on the grounds of security, to allow police to identify people.

Other MPs said that full face veils such as the burka or the niqab were a symbol of the oppression of women.

A woman wearing a full Islamic veil walks with a man and a baby's buggy in Venissieux, near Lyon, France, April 2010 Very few Muslim women actually wear full veils in France and Belgium

But critics of the law say it could end up excluding women, leaving those who do wear the full veil trapped in their homes.

And they say the measures are over the top - estimates suggest only a few dozen women wear this kind of veil in Belgium, out of a Muslim population of about half a million.

"We consider the law a disproportionate intrusion into fundamental rights such as the freedom of religion and expression," Ines Wouters, the lawyer representing the two women challenging the ban, told the newspaper La Libre.

She has taken their case to Belgium's constitutional court, where she will request a suspension of the law, AFP news agency reported.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Europe stories

RSS

Features

  • RihannaCloud caution

    After celebrity leaks, what can you do to safeguard your photos?


  • Cesc FabregasFair price?

    Have some football clubs overpaid for their new players?


  • Woman and hairdryerBlow back

    Would banning high-power appliances actually save energy?


  • Rack of lambFavourite feast

    Is the UK unusually fond of lamb and potatoes?


  • Members of staff at James Stevenson Flags hold a Union Jack and Saltire flag UK minus Scotland

    Does the rest of the UK care if the Scots become independent?


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.