Women who wear full-face burqas in Austria could face fines of nearly $170 USD if they continue to wear clothing that obstructs their faces in public come October, according to a new measure passed by the Austrian Parliament.
The ban prohibits Islamic burqas, an enveloping outer garment used to veil women in public; niqabs, a cloth that covers the face; and other clothing that obstructs the face when in public places, universities, courts or on transportation, according to a recent report. The ban would not apply to hijabs, or headscarves, which cover only the hair and neck.
The measure is meant to be “religiously neutral” and apply to any woman, according to a draft text of the law. “Those who are not prepared to accept Enlightenment values will have to leave our country and society.”
Many have argued that the ban is discriminatory, citing the small number of women who might wear veils in Austria.
But there is also support for bans on full-face veils across Europe, a movement that has been growing since France implemented a law in 2011 that bans full-face veils. Belgium and Bulgaria followed, and partial bans were imposed by Austria, parts of Spain, Italy and Switzerland.
German Parliament also voted for a draft law earlier this year that would ban women who work in civil service, judiciary and military fields from wearing burqas and niqabs.
There are critics of the current full-face veil ban in Austria who feel the measure is a “knee-jerk reaction” to growing support for the populist Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), which claims the measure does not go far enough, according to The Independent;
There were thousands of protestors on the streets of Vienna speaking out against the ban earlier this year. Protest organizers said that “[e]very woman must be able to move freely in public without harassment and discrimination – no matter what she does or does not wear,” The Independent reported.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen publicly opposed the ban earlier this year and said “[i]t is every woman’s right to always dress how she wants.”
“And it is not only Muslim women, all women can wear a headscarf, and if this real and rampant Islamaphobia continues, there will come a day where we must ask all women to wear a headscarf – all – out of solidarity to those who do it for religious reasons,” Van der Bellen said.