Denmark bans burqa, niqab; faces flak from human rights bodies
Denmark on Thursday, May 31, joined several other European countries to ban garments that cover the face, including Islamic veils like the burqa and niqab. The decision by taken by the Scandinavian country's parliament through an overwhelming majority was, however, condemned by the human rights activists who said it was "neither necessary nor proportionate", news agencies reported.
The decision was taken by a 75-30 majority with 74 absentees. The country's centre-right governing coalition said the move was not aimed at any religion and doesn't put a curb on headscarves, turbans or traditional skull cap wore by the Jews.
The law, nevertheless, was seen as one directed at the Muslim women in the country who wear full veils.
Violation of the anti-veil law hereafter will result in a fine of 1,000 kroner (134 euros) fine for the first time and up to 10,000 kroner for the fourth time or more. The law will come into force from August 1.
The Danish government, however, tried to keep the matter in a low light and not attract too much controversy. The country's Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen said that the police will be using their common sense when seeing people flouting the law, backing up his earlier assurance that the police would not remove the veils by force.
"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," Poulsen was quoted as saying by Ritzau news agency in February this year.
The law will allow people to cover their face against cold weather or to comply with legal requirements, like using helmets while riding motorcycles.
The human rights campaigners, however, were not convinced. Amnesty International's Europe director Gauri van Gulik was critical of the decision saying: "All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs. This ban will have a particularly negative impact on Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa."
"While 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," she said.
"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," the Amnesty International official said.