Parliament’s home affairs committee last week passed the so-called “burqa ban”, making it illegal for anyone to go out in public with their face wholly or substantially covered. Belgium becomes only the second country, after France, to introduce such a ban.
Muslim women are most affected by the ban, but during discussions in the committee, proponents were careful to raise issues such as security, mindful that a law passed to affect only one population group could be struck down as unconstitutional. A proposal to send the bill to the Council of State for advice was rejected by the committee, as was the suggestion to consult with organisations like Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch.
About 200 women in Belgium wear the full-covering burqa. According to Eva Brems, the human rights professor who voted against her Groen! party line to oppose the ban, the bill has two main faults: it effectively turns victims into criminals, and it makes the assumption that women wear the burqa against their own will.
As for the more common hijab headscarf which is the subject of much polemic, it is not affected at all by the ban.