Girls attending Austrian day care centres and elementary schools should no longer be wearing headscarves, the right-wing government said, on Wednesday, announcing a plan to draft a new bill.
“The veiling of small children should definitely have no place in our country,” conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters after a meeting.
He said that the step would curb gender discrimination against girls and prevent the development of marginalised “parallel societies” within Austria.
“It’s important to take a stance against political Islam. We want to make sure that children grow up free and that they are not pulled into these [Islamic] mechanisms,” added Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the far-right Freedom Party.
Small girls with headscarves are not a large-scale phenomenon in Austria.
When a reporter asked for statistics that underpin the new policy, Kurz was not able to provide numbers but said that “it is a growing problem.”
Half a year ago, a ban on face veils came into effect in Austria – a policy that likewise affects only a small number of people.
So far, police have cited only 50 transgressors.
To pass the new headscarf ban for girls, the two right-wing government parties need the support of one opposition party in parliament, to secure a necessary two-thirds majority.
Social Democrats and Liberals signalled Wednesday that would consider the bill, while calling for a package of integration policies rather than symbolic steps like a ban.