PARIS - France moves closer to barring Muslim women from playing sports in a major setback for human rights in the country, writes TRTWorld.

The French Senate has voted to ban conspicuous religious symbols in sports, a move primarily aimed at the country's Muslim women - some of whom may play sports with a headscarf. According to right-wing politicians who voted for the decision, the move targeting the country's Muslim women was taken in the interest of so-called religious neutrality.

"This measure aims to suppress all forms of Muslim subjectivity regarding faith and worship, culture and political expression," says Maria De Cartena, a human rights defender in France. In a rare move, the controversial decision was opposed by Emmanuel Macron's government, which has presided over some of the restrictive clampdowns on Muslims in recent years.

Approved by 160 votes to 143 in the upper house of parliament on Tuesday, the decision is a demonstration that Islamophobia is institutionalised," added De Cartena, speaking to TRT World.

The French government voted against the amendment. France already triggered outrage since an amendment last year to the controversial "separatism bill" that banned girls under the age of 18 from wearing hijab in public spaces.

The bill titled "Strengthening the respect of the principles of the Republic” drew criticism on social media and saw the beginning of the “hands off my hijab” campaign.

The French football federation already bans women from wearing the hijab in official matches, and headscarves are prohibited in schools and government buildings.