Swiss parliament's upper house rejects bill to ban burqas

Switzerland's upper house of parliament has rejected an initiative championed by a right-wing populist party to ban burqas, the face- and body-covering garment worn by some Muslim women.

The Council of State voted 26-9 with four abstentions Thursday against the measure that narrowly passed the lower house in November. The Italian-speaking Ticino region enacted a ban on burqas last year.

A lawmaker for the populist Swiss People's Party, which pushed for the measure, is already working to compile signatures to bring the issue up for a national referendum.

Proponents say face covering should not be allowed for security reasons, and insist wearing the burqa harms women's rights.

Opponents say the measure could fan a cultural clash, and that the burqa is rarely seen in Switzerland, if occasionally among some tourists.