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France: Creation of Commission to Study Wearing of Burqa

(July 2, 2009) On June 23, 2009, the Presidents' Conference of the National Assembly, which comprises all the presidents of that body's political groups, upon the proposal of the President of the National Assembly created a commission to study the wearing of the burqa or niqab in French territory. The decision was unanimous. (Assemblée Nationale, Conférence des Présidents,
(last visited June 29, 2009). The burqa is a black or blue robe worn by Muslim women, especially in Afghanistan, covering the body from head to toe, with only a mesh screen over the eyes, while the niqab is typically a full-body veil with slits for the eyes. It is usually black.

The decision came after a group of 58 Members of the National Assembly, concerned about a growing number of women wearing burqas or niqabs in France, had called for an inquiry commission to be created on the subject. (L'Assemblée créé une mission d'information sur le voile intégral, LEMONDE.FR, June 23, 2009, available at Archives, through online subscription.) It was decided, instead of creating an inquiry commission, to create a study commission to exchange information and to hold a dialogue. The former has more powers but requires a vote of the National Assembly. The study commission will be put in place in July and should render its report in six months. (Id.)

In addition, on June 22, in a speech before both Chambers of Parliament, French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed the issue and stated that “the problem of the burqa is not a religious problem. It is a problem relating to the freedom and the dignity of the woman. It is a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement. I want to solemnly say it: the burqa is not welcome in the territory of the French Republic.” He further stated, “[w]e cannot accept in our country women prisoners behind a screen, cut off from any social life, deprived of identity. It is not the idea that we have of a woman's dignity.” (Id.)