On June 27, 2018, the Dutch Senate passed a bill that partially bans face-covering veils such as burqas or niqabs in public spaces. The bill was approved by 44 out of the 75 members of the Dutch Senate and supported by most major political parties in the Netherlands.
The ban, which has been defended as a security measure, will make it illegal for people to wear any face-covering items of clothing in certain government-run locations, including public transport, hospitals and schools. Though other concealing garments, such as ski-masks and motorcycle helmets, will be affected by the ban, the new restrictions will mainly impact Muslim women who wear full-length veils.
According to current estimates, between 200 to 400 Muslim women in the Netherlands wear burqas or niqabs in public and will no longer be able to access the aforementioned facilities while dressed in either veil. Recent reports suggest that the government intends to enforce the ban with a fine of around €400. Women will still be permitted to wear either veil on the street and the restrictions don’t extend to religious headscarves like the hijab, which leave faces uncovered.
Well over half of the Senate voted in favour of the bill and the legalisation was supported by the current prime minister Mark Rutte, who claimed it ‘doesn’t have any religious background’ when it was proposed in 2015. Furthermore, only one out of the four political parties (namely D66) that make up the current Dutch coalition government opposed the bill.
Even though the law has been framed as religiously neutral by its proponents, Dutch far-right politicians, mainly drawn from Geert Wilders‘ anti-Islamic party PVV, view the Senate’s decision as a major victory and have pushed for similar, or more severe bans, for over a decade. As France, Belgium, Austria and Denmark have introduced comparable laws in recent years, the Netherlands will be the fourth EU member state to prohibit face-covering veils in public.