Tunisia’s parliament began discussing a bill to ban the niqab face covering for women in public places.
The law was put forward by al-Hurra bloc, which represents the secular “Tunis Project” party since 2016, and the general legislation committee began considering it Tuesday, weeks before the end of the parliamentary term.
The four-chapter bill includes prevention of face concealment in public places, transport stations, roads, and ports, as well as industrial, commercial and banking institutions. It also includes financial penalties and imprisonment up to 15 days for violators.
The draft law aims to protect public security and the rights of others, according to al-Hurra.
It also aims to strengthen surveillance of terrorist movements, protect the security of the country and individuals, and counter all the hidden tactics used by terrorists to avoid surveillance.
Earlier this month, the government issued a publication preventing the niqab and face concealment in public and administrative institutions, days after three terrorist bombings in the capital, Tunis.
The government’s announcement created various reactions with some strongly opposing and others supporting.
The initiative is backed by leftist and liberal political movements, which confirmed terrorists used the niqab as a means of concealing their movements and carrying out attacks. However, human rights and Islamic parties warned that such a decision could affect individual freedoms.
Several Islamic parties expressed their fear that the decision to ban the niqab, could become a ban on the veil as well.
Unlike leftist and liberal parties, Nahdha movement expressed an understanding of this action in light of the growing threat of terrorism.
MP of Nahdha movement, Latifa al-Habashi, confirmed that the government’s announcement, does not include the niqab and did not mention it at all, but only prohibited the entry of any person that does not reveal their face or refuses to show their identity.
She pointed out that the prime minister made this decision following consultations with the security and intelligence leaders so that the use of niqab is not used in terrorist operations, asserting it is necessary to maintain the freedoms.
For its part, Machrouu Tounes movement supported the government’s decision to ban the niqab in public institutions and said the party has submitted a legislative initiative to parliament on the same issue since 2015, but the initiative has not been activated.