French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced yesterday that he plans to introduce a ban prohibiting women from wearing a full veil in public. According to Radio France Internationale, Sarkozy plans to move forward to legislate a ban on the wearing of the burqa in public despite warnings from France's State Council that such a law may be unconstitutional. Belgian lawmakers will also begin debate today on similar legislation.
According to ABC News, if the French ban is enacted, violations could lead to a 15 to 25 Euro fine ($22-$36) and jail time up to one week. The ban would apply to all women in public places, such as markets and public buildings, including tourists, reported Radio France Internationale.
After a cabinet meeting chaired by President Sarkozy, French government spokesperson Luc Chatel told Radio France Internationale that the face veil "hurts the dignity of women and is not acceptable in French society. We're legislating for the future. Wearing a full veil is a sign of a community closing in on itself and of a rejection of our values."
Judith Sunderland of Human Rights Watch said in a statement that "at a time when Muslims in Europe feel more vulnerable than ever, the last thing needed is a ban like this...treating pious Muslim women like criminals won't help integrate them."
President Nicolas Sarkozy announced his opposition to the burqa, the head-to-toe garment worn by some Islamic women, in a speech to a joint session of the French Parliament in June 2009. In this speech, he said "The burqa is not welcome in French territory...In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity," reported the Wall Street Journal. This speech, the first presidential address to the legislature in over a century, urged the Parliament to examine the practice of Muslim women in France wearing the burqa. In 2004 the French Parliament passed a law banning students from wearing veils and other religious symbols in public schools.
It is estimated that only about 1,900 women in France wear full veils.
In Belgium, full-coverage veils are currently prohibited in 20 out of 589 Belgian municipalities, similar to local restrictions in Italy and the Netherlands, according to Human Rights Watch.
Media Resources: Radio France Internationale 4/22/10; ABC News 4/22/10; Human Rights Watch Statement 4/21/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 6/23/09
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .