The Dutch cabinet on Friday approved a partial ban on wearing the burqa (face-covering Islamic veil), including in schools, hospitals and on public transport, AFP reported.
"Face-covering clothing will in future not be accepted in education and healthcare institutions, government buildings and on public transport," the government said in a statement after the cabinet backed Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk's bill.
The ban does not apply to wearing the burqa on the street, but only "in specific situations where it is essential for people to be seen" or for security reasons, Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists after the cabinet meeting.
"The bill does not have any religious background," Rutte said, according to AFP.
The government said it had "tried to find a balance between people's freedom to wear the clothes they want and the importance of mutual and recognizable communication."
A previous bill banning the burqa even on the street and dating from Rutte's last government, which was supported by lawmaker Geert Wilders, will be withdrawn.
The government said it "sees no reason for a general ban that would apply to all public places."
Those flouting the ban can be fined up to 405 euros (around $450).
State broadcaster NOS said that between 100 and 500 women in the Netherlands wear the burqa, most of them only occasionally.
The Dutch government said it would send its draft law to the highest court in the Netherlands, the Council of State, for its opinion.
That opinion and the bill's text will be made public when parliament begins debating the law at a date yet to be decided.
France introduced a ban on women wearing the burqa in 2010, resulting in a handful of arrests since then.
A parliamentary committee in Belgium later voted to ban the burqa as well. Italy has drafted a similar law.
The European Court of Human Rights last year backed the French ban, rejecting arguments that outlawing full-face veils breaches religious freedom.
Under the French ban, women wearing full-face veils in public spaces can be fined up to 150 euros.
By Ben Ariel
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