London: A ban on burqas has been enforced in Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Ticino region with anyone wearing a full face veil being subjected to fines.
The authorities in Ticino rolled out the restriction on July 1, banning people from wearing the burqas in shops, restaurants and public buildings, the Daily Mail reported on Friday.
The local government in the southern Swiss state approved the rule after a referendum in September 2013 saw two in three voters backing the move.
Fines of up to $10,155 would be imposed for anyone breaking the rules, although the minimum fine would be closer to $100.
The move comes despite the huge popularity of the region among tourists from the Middle East.
The Saudi Arabian embassy in capital Bern had earlier written on Twitter: “The embassy wishes to emphasize that the Ticino cantonal authorities in south eastern Switzerland have announced that as of July 1, 2016 they will start to enforce the burqa ban in public places in the canton, including in Lugano, Locarno, Magadino, Bellinzona, Ascona and Mendrisio”.
The Ticino authorities had originally wanted to ban burqas and niqabs as well as balaclava masks — a close-fitting woollen garment covering the whole head and neck except for parts of the face — usually worn by demonstrators.
However, the officials voted for a law that only applied to veils worn by Muslim women and made no exceptions for tourists visiting the area.
The Swiss Parliament said the ban did not violate federal law.
The burqa ban echoed a similar law put in place in France, where women could be fined an initial $45 for wearing the garment, which could be increased to $194.