Lower house approves ban on clothing that covers faces, including burqa and niqab, in official buildings, schools and hospitals
The lower house of the Dutch parliament has approved a limited ban on “face-covering clothing”, including the burqa and niqab.
The legislation, approved on Tuesday by a large majority in the 150-seat house of representatives, must be approved by the upper house of parliament before it can be signed into law.
In a text to Associated Press, the anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders called the limited ban “a step in the right direction” and said he will push for the burqa to be outlawed entirely if his rightwing Freedom party wins the general election in March.
Studies suggest that only a few hundred women in the Netherlands wear niqabs or full-face burqas, but successive governments have attempted to ban them, following the example of France and Belgium.
The Dutch proposal, described by the government as “religion-neutral”, does not go as far as the complete bans introduced in those countries. It applies on public transport and in educational institutions, health institutions such as hospitals, and government buildings.
In a debate last week that paved the way for the vote, the interior minister, Ronald Plasterk, acknowledged that the furore about the burqa had played a major role in the ban’s approval.
But Plasterk, from the Labour party, said people should be allowed to appear in public with their faces covered if they wanted to, but in government buildings, schools and hospitals, it was essential to be able to look each other in the face.