- (Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl)
An Italian parliamentary commission approved a draft law on Tuesday that would ban women from wearing veils that cover their face in public.
The law will be forwarded to the Italian parliament following summer recess, and if the law passes, Italy would be the third European country to ban face veils following France and Belgium.
The law was sponsored by Souad Sbai, a member of the conservative Freedom People Party born in Morocco. He has stated in a phone interview, "Five years ago, no-one wore the burqa in Italy. Today, there is always more. We have to help women get out of this segregation … to get out of this submission."
Sbai added that according to some reports an estimated 3,000 women across Italy cover their faces.
If passed, the new law would expand upon a pre-existing Italian law that does not allow the concealing of the face for security reasons.
The vice president of the Freedom People party, Barbara Saltamartini has said in a statement that, "Final approval will put an end to the suffering of many women who are often forced to wear the burqa or niqab, which annihilates their dignity and gets in the way of integration."
However, Roberto Hamza, spokesman for the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy was quoted by the Italian newspaper ANSA as saying, "This topic continues to be a sort of criminalization and media dramatization. In Italy, there aren't even 100 women who wear the niqab, and not even one who wears the burqa."
France was the first country in the world to ban face veils with President Sarkozy famously stating “burqas are not welcome in France.”
France's burqa-ban witnessed protests in the country that lead to the arresting of burqa-clad women that refused to leave protests last April when the law was enacted.
The banning of burqas across Europe has prompted a debate over whether the banning of face veils serves to liberalize Muslim women, or if it infringes upon a woman's freedom of choice to express her religion.
Some critics have called the ban racist since the majority of female Muslims across Europe do not actually wear the veil and argue that Islam does not require women to go out in public with a fully covered face.
However, other critics find that the veil to be a security risk and equate it with extremism.
If passed, Italy's ban will fine third parties that force women to cover their face in public 30,000 Euros and they could face up to 12 months in jail.