Proposal for a partial ban of public face-covering in the Netherlands

The Dutch government has approved a proposal of the Interior Minister Plasterk for a partial ban on the wearing of clothing that covers the face in education and care institutions, public buildings and on public transport. According to the proposed bill clear and uniform rules will be introduced on the matter:

Ban on wearing face coverings in education and care sectors, public buildings and public transport | News item |

In principle, people in the Netherlands have the freedom to dress however they wish, regardless of the opinion of others. This freedom is only restricted in situations where it is essential that people can make eye contact in the interests of security or good service. This is the case in education and care institutions, public buildings and on public transport. The government has a responsibility to take regulatory action to prohibit the wearing of face coverings in these situations. Rules to this effect are already common practice in many places.

The government has sought to strike a balance between the freedom of people to dress how they wish and the importance of face-to-face communication.

If people violate the ban they can be fined up to 405 euros. The Interior Minister, Plasterk, consulted Dutch Muslim organizations in order to create support for the ban although it is not clear which organizations or if they actually support the ban.

Neighbouring France and Belgium have more restrictive bans targeting those who wear face-veils, not allowing people to wear face-veils in public. There will several exceptions in the proposed bill. Face coverings in the interests of health, safety, to practice certain professions or sports or to participate in cultural or festive activities and in private quarters of care institutions will be allowed. This new proposal means that a previous proposal (supported by the Islamophobe Freedom Party of Geert Wilders) for a total ban on face covering will be withdrawn.

‘Burqa ban’
Although no one really doubts the proposal pertains mostly, if not solely, to Muslim women wearing the face veil, The prime minister Rutte said the bill did not have a “religious background”. The conservative liberal party VVD, one of the parties in the Cabinet together with the social-democrats, already stated however that this proposal is only the first step of a total ban: ‘The burqa (the proposal is often called the “burqa ban” MdK), does not belong in the Netherlands. If you cover your face with a helmet, balaclava or burqa, you close yourself off from other people. It makes many people feel unsafe. And it is unsafe because you don’t know who is in front of you.’ The proposal is meant to set a norm according to the VVD: ‘If you stubbornly refuse to adjust yourself a little bit and to participate in society, you have something to explain. We don’t except that.’ According to Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party, the proposal is too weak: ‘I don’t want to see any burqa in the Netherlands.’ The GreenLeft party dismisses the proposal stating that it is ‘only a symbolic measure’ which ‘does not solve anything’.

Not in effect yet
The proposal is not law yet. First, the bill will be send to the Council of State for an advisory opinion. If the government still wants to proceed with the proposal after the advice, the text of the bill and the advisory opinion will be made public when the bill is introduced in the House of Representatives. When the proposal is approved of by the House of Representatives it goes to the Senate which also has to approve. This means that the ban will not be in effect before the end of the year.

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