Paris: The French parliament late Tuesday began debating a proposed law to ban veiling of faces in public, a controversial move aimed mainly at traditional dress worn by some Muslim women.
If the bill becomes law, any woman wearing the face veil in public would be liable to a fine of 150 euros ($184), or be obliged to take a class in citizenship, or both.
In addition, anyone forcing someone to conceal her face because of her gender would face a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of up to 30,000 euros.
If a child is forced to veil her face, the parent or adult who ordered it would face a fine of 60,000 euros and two years in jail.
The controversial bill is expected to be approved, because the ruling UMP party and its allies have a commanding majority in both houses. Opposition Socialist lawmakers are also likely to support it.
But a key government advisory body has questioned its legality. The Council of State noted that the European Court of Human Rights has upheld the right of individuals to live their lives according to their convictions.
It would, therefore, be difficult to use the argument that wearing the veil insults the dignity of a woman if she wears it voluntarily.
Similar laws have been passed by the Belgian Parliament, forbidding Muslim women from wearing full-body burqas. A similar initiative is under way in Spain.