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Girls & Women

Denmark Just Banned Burqas and Other Face Coverings

Danish lawmakers voted on Thursday to ban face coverings in public, making the Scandinavian country the latest of several European nations to pass such a measure for “security” reasons.

The policy is commonly called the “burqa ban,” though the Danish government has said it is not intended to target people of any specific religion.

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The new law goes into effect on Aug. 1, according to the BBC, and it will make it illegal for women to wear garments like the niqab and burqa — both of which are traditional Islamic garments. It also extends to fake beards and masks that cover people’s faces. 

However, the policy does not prohibit the wearing of other religious attire, including headscarves, kippahs, or turbans. The legislation also leaves it up to law enforcement officials to make exceptions for face coverings used for a “recognisable purpose,” such as shielding people from cold weather.

Amnesty International has said the ban “violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion” and discriminates against women, particularly Muslim women, in Denmark.

Read more: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Says Women Are 'Absolutely' Equal to Men

“All women should be free to dress as they please and to wear clothing that expresses their identity or beliefs,” Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Europe director, said in a statement. “This ban will have a particularly negative impact on Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab or burqa ... The law criminalizes women for their choice of clothing and in so doing flies in the face of those freedoms Denmark purports to uphold.”

Many others have also spoken out on social media against the new policy.

The ban’s supporters argue that face coverings pose a public safety threat and are against Danish culture.

"In terms of value, I see a discussion of what kind of society we should have with the roots and culture we have, that we don't cover our face and eyes, we must be able to see each other and we must also be able to see each other's facial expressions, it's a value in Denmark," Denmark's Justice Minister Søren Pape Poulsen said.

First-time offenders will be fined 1,000 kroner ($160), but repeat offenders may be fined up to 10 times that amount, according to a Danish news agency.

Read more: An Iranian Woman Who Removed Her Hijab Was Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison

France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria have all passed similar “burqa bans” over the past few years. And though these policies have been heavily debated, the European Court of Human Rights has consistently upheld such policies.

The burqa and other Islamic face coverings have prompted discussions and controversy around the world. While some women see them as symbols of religious expression and choose to wear them, others associate the garment with male oppression, particularly in countries like Saudi Arabia, where women are required to keep themselves covered in the presence of men.

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