London: As debate intensifies across Europe on banning the Islamic full-body veil at public places, a British minister has defended a Muslim woman`s right to wear the burqa and says it is empowering.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said women were "empowered" by the freedom to wear the face coverings.
Her comments came after her colleague, Immigration Minister Damian Green, resisted demands from within the Tory party to ban the burqa, according to Daily Mail.
Green said a ban would be "rather un-British" and run contrary to the conventions of a "tolerant and mutually respectful society".
This is despite a YouGov survey which found that 67 percent of voters wanted the wearing of full-face veils to be outlawed in Britain.
France`s Lower House of Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a ban on wearing burqa, while Spain and Belgium have similar laws in the pipeline.
Tory MPs supporting a ban include Philip Hollobone, who has tabled a private member`s Bill that would make it illegal for anyone to cover his or her face in public.
Spelman, however, argued that wearing a burqa is important for women`s rights.
"I don`t, living in this country as a woman, want to be told what I can and can`t wear. I`ve been out to Afghanistan and I think I understand much better as a result of actually visiting why a lot of Muslim women want to wear the burqa," she said.
"It is part of their culture, it is part of understanding that they choose to go out in the burqa and I think those that live in this country, if they choose to wear a burqa, should be free to do so.”
"We are a free country, we attach importance to people being free and for a woman it is empowering to be able to choose each morning when you wake up what you wear."