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France: Implementation of the Law Prohibiting Wearing of Clothing Concealing One's Face in Public Spaces

(Mar. 23, 2011) On March 3, 2011, a circular implementing Law 2010-1192 on Prohibiting the Wearing of Clothing Concealing One's Face in Public Spaces was published in France's Official Gazette (Circulaire du 2 mars 2011 relative à la mise en œuvre de la loi no. 2010-1192 du 11 octobre 2010 interdisant la dissimulation du visage dans l'espace public, Legifrance online database). This prohibition is to take effect on April 11, 2011. (See Nicole Atwill, France: Law Prohibiting the Wearing of Clothing Concealing One's Face in Public Spaces Found Constitutional,GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Oct. 18, 2010).)

The circular restates the provision that “concealing one's face infringes upon the minimum requirements of life in society. In addition, it places the concerned individuals in a situation of exclusion and inferiority incompatible with the principles of liberty, equality, and human dignity affirmed by the French Republic.” (Circulaire, supra.)

The circular defines the terms “public spaces” to include all spaces that are open, free of charge, to the public, such as beaches, public gardens, and promenades, but also places that can be accessed under a condition, insofar as any person who wishes to enter a specific place may meet that condition (e.g., through payment of a movie or theater ticket). Under the general definition, businesses (coffee shops, restaurants, and other shops), banks, airports, train stations, and means of public transportation are considered public spaces. (Id.) Local and national public administration buildings are also public spaces. They include, for example, city halls, courts, hospitals, post offices, schools, colleges, universities, museums, and libraries. (Id.)

In public service locations, it is the head of the service who is responsible for the application of the provisions of the Law by his or her staff and must organize their training. Starting on April 11, 2011, public service agents who are required to ask patrons to show their faces to justify their identity will be authorized to refuse access to the service to patrons who conceal their faces. (Id.)

In the meantime, the circular provides that the public needs to be informed of the provisions of the Law and notifications must be posted in public spaces and locations of public services. (Id.)