Denmark on Thursday became the latest European country to ban the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces in a move slammed by human rights campaigners as “a violation of women’s rights”.
“Anyone who wears a garment that hides the face in public will be punished with a fine,” says the law, which was passed by 75 votes to 30 in the Danish parliament.
Presented by the centre-right government, the legislation was also backed by the Social Democrats and the far-right Danish People’s Party.
The new rule will take effect on August 1, reports The Telegraph.
Wearing a burqa, which covers a person’s entire face, or the niqab, which only shows the eyes, in public will lead to a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156, 134 euros).
The ban also targets other accessories that hide the face such as balaclavas and false beards. Repeated violations will be fined up to 10,000 kroner.
It is not known how many women wear the niqab and burqa in Denmark.
“I don’t think there are many who wear the burqa here in Denmark. But if you do, you should be punished with a fine,” Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen was quoted as saying by Ritzau news agency in February.
– ‘Neither necessary nor proportionate’-
Amnesty International condemned the law as a “discriminatory violation of women’s rights”, especially against Muslim women who choose to wear the full-face veils.
“Whilst some specific restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils for the purposes of public safety may be legitimate, this blanket ban is neither necessary nor proportionate and violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion,” the organisation’s Europe director Gauri van Gulik said in a statement following the vote.
“If the intention of this law was to protect women’s rights, it fails abjectly. Instead, the law criminalises women for their choice of clothing and in so doing flies in the face of those freedoms Denmark purports to uphold,” she added.
Supporters argue the ban enables better integration of Muslim immigrants into Danish society, claiming the garment is used to oppress women.
“Some people use (the full-face veil) to promote an ideology which, if successful, would mean many others would lose their right to freedom. It’s a matter of balance,” Martin Henriksen, spokesman for the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, told Ritzau.
– ‘Rather leave than take veil off’-
But Ayesha Haleem, a Pakistani woman who has been wearing the niqab for the past six years that she’s lived in Denmark, said no one, including her husband, forced her to wear it.
“Many people believe that men force us to wear the niqab or burqa. That’s completely wrong,” she told Danish public broadcaster DR.
“If I didn’t want to wear the niqab then I wouldn’t, even before meeting my husband,” Haleem said. “I’d rather leave the country than take my veil off.”
The full-face veil is a hot-button issue across Europe.
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights upheld a Belgian ban on wearing it in public.
Muslim garb banning at a glance.
Full burka and niqab ban
France, since 2004
Belgium, since 2011
Chad, since 2015
Cameroon, in five provinces, since 2015
Diffa, Niger, since 2015
Brazzaville, Congo, since 2015
Tessin, Switzerland, since 2016
Denmark, introduced in 2018
Around 30 French coastal towns had issued bans, but France’s highest court ruled against them on 26th August, meaning that burkini bans are now illegal.
Partial burka and niqab ban
The Netherlands: women cannot have their faces covered in schools, hospital and on public transport.
The Italian town of Novara: women were told to stop wearing a full veil in 2010, but there is no established fines system.
Parts of Catalonia, Spain: The country’s Supreme Court ruled against a ban in some areas in 2013, however those areas which brought their cases to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) have continued with the ban – supported by an ECHR ruling in their favour in 2014.
Turkey: a full ban was abandoned in 2013. Now, women are only barred if they work in the judiciary, military and police.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
May 31st, 2018