ROME, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- A parliamentary committee in Italy has approved a bill that would ban the wearing of the burqa and other garments that cover the face.
Parliament is expected to vote on the bill in September, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Italy has banned the wearing of clothing aimed at concealing identity since 1975. The new law, backed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party and its ally, the Northern League, would remove a religious exception.
Violators could be fined up to 300 euros ($420) or sentenced to community service "aimed at encouraging integration." Those who force women to wear burqas or similar face coverings would face even heavier penalties, imprisonment for a year and a 30,000 euro ($42,000) fine.
A recent poll found 73 percent of Italians would support laws restricting the wearing of burqas, with almost one-third saying they find them degrading to women.
Suad Sbai of People of Freedom gave that as her reason for endorsing the bill.
"We won't stop, on the road towards the liberation of women who are segregated and without rights," she said.