Lleida City Council bans burqa in municipal buildings

Lleida becomes the first city in Spain to prohibit full-face veils

Sergio Uceda

May 29, 2010 09:56 PM

Lleida (CNA).- The wearing of full-face veils will no longer be tolerated in the buildings of Lleida’s City Council, one of the four provincial capitals in Catalonia. This measure is mainly directed at those women who wear veils such as the burqa or the niqab. In Lleida, the City Council has identified around 20 women wearing full-face veils. With this measure, Lleida is the first Spanish city to regulate the use of the full-face veil.
The measure was adopted with the votes in favour of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), that holds the majority, the Center-Right Catalan Nationalist Party (CiU), the People’s Party (PPC) and an independent councillor. The Catalan Independentist Left Party (ERC) abstained and the Catalan Green Socialist Party (ICV) voted against the measure.

Days before the vote, the Islamic community of Lleida warned that they would lodge an appeal of unconstitutionality because the motion goes against the freedom of religious faith guaranteed by the Spanish Constitution. According to the Islamic community, Muslim women have the choice on whether or not to wear the burqa or niqab depending on their commitment to God or to their husbands. The Catalan delegation of Amnesty International stated that the burqa ban will not solve the problem and demanded greater social measures instead. Also, they differentiate between women who wear full-face veils voluntarily from those who are forced to do so.

Àngel Ros, the Socialist mayor of Lleida, says that the purpose of the ban is to protect women's freedom and equal opportunities. Ros declared that this is not an anti-Islamic measure but rather an act against the fundamentalist political uses of the religion. Isidre Gavín, councillor for the Center-Right Catalan Nationalist Party (CiU), considers the burqa and the niqab to be a barrier for integration. Montse Bergès of the Left-Wing Catalan Independentist Party (ERC) says that the measure has been adopted in a hurry with electioneering purposes and abstained. She thinks that literacy campaigns or labour insertion measures would be more useful. Ramon Cantams of the Catalan Green Socialist Party (ICV) says that it encourages xenophobia and voted against the ban.