Denmark has joined several other European countries in banning the full-face veil worn by some Muslim women in public spaces.
In a 75 to 30 vote on Thursday, Danish legislators passed the law presented by Denmark’s centre-right governing coalition. The law was also backed by the Social Democrats and the far-right Danish People’s Party.
“Anyone who wears a garment that hides the face in public will be punished with a fine,” says the law, which is to take effect on August 1.
Violating this law will lead to fines between €134 for a first offence to €1,343 for a fourth violation.
The Danish ban follows similar recent bans on veils covering the entire face in Belgium, France, Netherlands, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria.
The Danish government says the law is not aimed at any religion. But the law, popularly known as the “burqa ban”, is seen by some as directed at some Muslim women, who choose to wear the face veil in public.
“It (wearing the niqab) is a total suppression of women in an open society like Denmark, where we communicate with the face,” says Naser Khader, a Conservative Parliament member. “When I talk with you now, we also talk with the face, and that`s the least you can demand from our fellow citizens.”
It is not known how many women wear the 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.
Under the law, women can be told to remove their veils and be told to leave public areas. Police could in practice fine women who refuse to do so and tell them “to go home,” said Danish Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen.
Amnesty International called the ban “a discriminatory violation of women’s rights…All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs”.
The European Court of Human Rights last year upheld a Belgian ban on wearing it in public.
France was the first European country to ban the niqab in public places with a law that took effect in 2011.
Vivian Asamoah with agency reports