Justice Ministry revives «Burqa ban» idea

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The Justice Ministry is again pondering a ban on face-covering in public - including the burqa and other styles favored by some branches of Islam. The new legislation however would provide exceptions for specific situations, Jānis Iesalnieks (National Alliance), the Parliamentary Secretary of the Justice Ministry told the press Thursday.

According to Iesalnieks, the ban would apply to public spaces, with the exception of places of worship. 


The legislation project says that ban does not apply to face covering used for these reasons:

1) fulfilling legislative norms

2) carrying out professional duties

3) participants of sports lessons and events

4) participants of art events;

5) participants of state or national celebrations and cultural events

6) due to the weather

7) for health purposes

Iesalnieks said that the legislation contains exemptions, for example, allowing face covering for members of certain professions, as well as on medical grounds and for sporting or cultural events.

Justice Minister Dzintars Rasnačs (National Alliance) said that the legislation aims to protect Latvia's cultural and historical values and doesn't necessarily have a safety bent.

"Security is not being stressed as the primary and most important aspect," said the minister.

According to information published on the Justice Ministry website, the legislation is also designed "To preserve Latvian country-specific traditions, norms of behavior in society, as well as an understanding of moral behavior in society" and "To promote social integration in a preventive law to define the rules of conduct."

"The aim is to promote a unified and harmonious society with open communication between members of society living together, as well as protection of the Latvian and European cultural space," the ministry said.

The legislation is in early stages and is yet to be reviewed by the other ministries and the government prior to being sent to the Saeima.

Should it become law, covering one's face would classify as an administrative offense that could result in either a fine or a warning for first-time offenders.

A previous attempt by the Regional Alliance party to introduce a ban on face covering fell at the first hurdle in the parliament last fall.

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