In a 75-30 vote with 74 absentees, lawmakers in Denmark approved a bill [text, PDF, in Danish] Thursday adding a provision to the Danish criminal code that forbids a person from wearing face-concealing clothing in public mainly to include those wearing burqas.
The prohibition does not apply to the covering of the face which, the law defines, as serving a “qualifying purpose.” Lawmakers explained the purpose of the law was for safety, explicitly calling out a goal of “placing a significant distance from political Islam” (translated from Danish) in committee [committee report materials, in Danish].
Amnesty International’s Europe Director Gauri van Gulik opposed the addition of the law in a statement [press release]:
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. If the intention of this law was to protect women’s rights it fails abjectly. Instead, the law criminalizes women for their choice of clothing and in so doing flies in the face of those freedoms Denmark purports to uphold.
Full-coverage veils have been a subject of debate, referendum, and legislation across Europe. Denmark joins France, Austria and Belgium [JURIST reports] with similar bans. Switzerland is set to vote on the question likely sometime next year [JURIST report].
Denmark’s law will take effect August 1. The law is punishable by fine, but repeat offenders could face imprisonment.