Dutch Senate in favor of partial burka ban

Woman wearing a burqa
Woman wearing a burqaMOD/MOD / Wikimedia Commons

A majority in the Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate, is in favor of a partial ban on wearing face-covering clothing. During a debate in the Senate, the VVD, CDA, PVV, ChristenUnie and SGP supported a legislative proposal for such a ban. The D66, SP, PvdA and GroenLinks are against it, NOS reports.

The proposal bans the wear of burkas, niqabs, ski-masks an full-face helmets in public transport, healthcare institutions, education and government buildings. Headscarves and yarmulke are not included in the ban, as they do not cover the face. The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, approved this bill two years ago.

According to Minister Kasja Ollongren of Home Affairs, this partial ban is necessary because of "a social interest, because people want to experience  the feeling of social security". This is especially true in some places when people find it unpleasant if they can not see the other person's face. That obstructs communication, Ollongren said. A complete ban is "not defensible, because people still have the freedom to dress as they want", according to the Minister. That right can be limited, but only if it is proportional. 

In the debate, Ollongren also said that this ban does not target niqab and burka wearers. "But a standard has to be set. Uniformity and clarity are promoted by this bill."

She expects that in practice this ban will be enforced like other "minor offenses", such as the ban on smoking in certain areas. According to her, a person wearing face-covering clothing in places where they are not allowed to will likely first be approached and asked to either remove the offending item or leave the building. If they refuse, the police can be called in. 

When this ban will be implemented, is not yet clear. There will first be consultations with the sectors that need to implement the new rules. Ollongren wants to give these sectors time and space to adjust the rules and inform their staff. 

Face-covering clothing is already banned in Belgium, France, Denmark and Austria, among others, according to NOS.