News Agencies – March 3, 2011

Women will face prison for hiding their faces under the cloak – as will men who force their wives to wear one. The law, which will take effect from April 11, brands the garment ‘an insult to the country’s values’. It will make France the second country in Europe after Belgium to outlaw Muslim headwear that hides the face. President Nicolas Sarkozy has described the burqa as a ‘sign of debasement’.

The law was voted through last October after a year of heated national debate – and despite threats from al-Qaeda leaders to seek ‘dreadful revenge’ if it is enforced. The ban applies to all public spaces including streets, shops, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, sports stadiums and behind the wheel of a car on a public road.

Under the new rules, men can be fined up to £25,000 and jailed for a year for forcing their wives to wear a burka or a niqab (full face veil). Women will face a smaller fine of around £130 because they are ‘often victims who are not given any choice’, the law states. Repeat offenders who refuse to pay their fines will be sent to prison.

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