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France: Draft Law Prohibiting Wearing of Face-Concealing Clothing in Public Spaces

(June 7, 2010) On May 19, 2010, the French Council of Ministers endorsed a draft law, prepared by the Ministry of Justice, that would prohibit the wearing of clothing that covers the face in public spaces (Projet de loi interdisant la dissimulation du visage dans l'espace public, LEGIFRANCE, http://www.legifrance.gouv.f
(last visited June 3, 2010)).

Article 1 of the draft law states that “no one, in a public space, may wear clothing intended to conceal one's face.” Public space is defined as including “public streets, and places open to the public or used for public services.” (Id., art. 2.1.) The government decided to go for a complete ban and, therefore, not to follow the report of the Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative court, which concluded that there is no indisputable legal foundation for a complete ban. The Conseil said such a ban would most likely violate the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. (See Nicole Atwill, France: Council of State Advises Against Complete Ban on Full Islamic Veil, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR, Apr. 19, 2010, available at //

The ban would not apply where the clothing is prescribed by a law or regulation, is authorized to protect the anonymity of a person, is justified by medical or professional reasons, or is used during a festivity or an artistic or traditional event (LEGIFRANCE, supra, art. 2.2).

Violation of the ban is punishable by a maximum fine of €150 (about US$184). In addition, the draft law creates a new criminal offense. Anyone found guilty of compelling a woman to wear clothing concealing her face through the use of force, violence, threat, or abuse of authority may face a maximum sentence of one year of imprisonment and a fine of €15,000. (Id., art. 4.)