THE FRENCH government has decided to press ahead with plans to ban the burqa in public places, which anti-racism campaigners say is unconstitutional and unenforceable.
A total ban in public had been ruled out at committee stage last month, over fears it was too wide-ranging.
The Conseil d'Etat suggested limiting it to a defined list of places, such as schools and tax offices.
However the government confirmed yesterday that its draft law would apply to all public places. It will be drawn up in mid-May and put before parliament by July.
The government estimates that about 2,000 women in France wear the full Islamic dress.
If passed, a six-month educational campaign will be launched to explain the ban and the reasons behind it.
Shops and public services would have a right to refuse entry to a woman wearing the burqa and police officers in the street could ask that it be removed. Anyone who refuses could be arrested and fined up to €750.
Women's rights group Ni Putes Ni Soumises welcomed the proposed law, which it said was "the beginning of a new page in the history of women's emancipation".
However SOS Racisme said the ban "contravened the constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights" and would stigmatise Muslim women.
Lyon mayor Gérard Collomb said he had spoken to police officers in the city who said the law would be unenforceable in reality.
France's official state ombudsman, the Médiateur de la République Jean-Paul Delevoye said a wide-ranging ban in all public places seemed excessive.
"I don't know what we are going to do with Saudi women who go shopping on the Champs-Elysées," he said.