Italy's parliamentary commission has approved a draft law banning women from wearing veils that cover their faces in public.
The draft law was sponsored by Souad Sbai, a Moroccan-born member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Freedom People party.
The law, which was passed by the constitutional affairs commission Tuesday, would prohibit women from wearing a burqa, niqab or any other garment that covers the face. It would also sentence anyone who forces women to cover their faces in public to up to one year in prison and fine them $43,000. The Italian news agency ANSA reports the opposition voted against the legislation.
Italian lawmaker Barbara Saltamartini said final approval of the law would "put an end to the suffering of many women who are often forced to wear the burqa or niqab," which she said "annihilates their dignity and gets in the way of integration.''
The draft will go before the full parliament for final approval later this year.
France, which has western Europe's largest Muslim population, and Belgium have similar laws in place. The laws went into effect earlier this year.
About 5 million Muslims live in France, but only about 2,000 women wear burqas.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.