Rome: Italy's anti-immigrant North League party has introduced a bill in the lower house of Parliament seeking a ban on burqa, the full body veil worn by Muslim women.
According to the legislation, wearing burqa will be punishable by a year in prison, fines of EUR 150 to 300 for the wearer and EUR 30,000 for anyone forcing a woman to don the face-covering Islamic garment.
Anyone coercing a minor or a disabled woman into wearing a burqa will be eligible for a EUR 60,000 fine.
If a woman is wearing the burqa of her own volition, the EUR 150-300 fine can be reduced, if she agrees to do community service aimed at better integrating Muslim immigrants.
"This bill represents a step forward because we are not just facing a problem of public order, but - we believe - an offence to women's dignity", said Carolina Lussana, Northern League Member of Parliament, handing over the copy of the bill to reporters.
"It is also a violation of the principle of equality between men and women enshrined in our Constitution," she said.
The bill is likely to draw criticism from many Muslim immigrants, but 73 percent of Italians believe the burqa should not be allowed to be worn in public places, according to a recent poll by Panel Data.
The right-leaning Northern League's bill came just days after France's upper house of Parliament, the Senate, voted by 246 to one to ban the burqa.
Under the new French law, women will be fined or jailed for covering their faces in public.
First Published: Saturday, September 18, 2010, 12:25