Spanish town to ban burqa in municipal buildings

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Spain's northeastern town of Lerida is to vote Friday to ban the wearing of the burqa in municipal buildings, the mayor's office said, in an apparent first for the country.

A proposal was being drawn up and the majority socialists were behind the push to ban the face-covering Islamic veil in the municipality's buildings, a spokesman for the mayor's office said Wednesday.

The town had asked its legal services to look into the possibility of banning the garment in all public spaces in the name of the fundamental rights of women, the official said.

"We cannot regulate the usage of the burqa in the road, but we can do that in municipal buildings," he said.

Few women wear the full veil in Lerida, a town in the Catalonia region that has about 140,000 residents, one-fifth of whom are immigrants including from North Africa.

The garment has sparked intense debate in many European countries, with Belgium deputies last month backing a draft law banning the garment in all public places, including on the streets, in a first for Europe.

The text must be adopted by the upper house Senate before it can come into effect.

France's cabinet has also approved a draft law to ban the full-face veil from public spaces, opening the way for the text to go before parliament in July.

Spain's socialist government is opposed to legislating against the burqa.

© 2010 AFP

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