Denmark on Thursday became the latest European nation to ban garments that cover the face, such as Islamic veils including burqa or niqab.
In a 75 to 30 vote, 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. The government says the law is not aimed at religious groups, but human rights advocates have criticized the rule as unnecessary.
“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 a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156). Repeated violations will be fined up to 10,000 kroner ($1,560).
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.
“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,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Europe director.
Van Gulik added that the law fails “abjectly” if its goal is to protect women’s rights.
“The law criminalizes women for their choice of clothing and in so doing flies in the face of those freedoms Denmark purports to uphold,” she said.
Debate surrounding the burqa has persisted for years around Europe.
In December 2016, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “the full-face veil is not acceptable in our country,” and called for it to be banned. France and Belgium have enforced bans on burqas and other garments that cover the face. Local governments in Italy, Spain and Switzerland have also imposed bans, many of which have been challenged in court.