The Netherlands’ Partial Ban on Face-Covering Clothing Act went into effect on Thursday but is expected to be rendered ineffective as both Dutch police and transport companies have expressed reluctance to enforce the law.
Commonly referred to as a “burqa ban,” the Act prohibits the wearing of full-face helmets, ski masks, balaclavas, niqabs and burqas on public transport and in public buildings. Wearers are supposed to be given the choice between removing the item or receiving a 150-euro fine. A few exceptions are permitted, including if the items are necessary for safety or are being used for a cultural or festival activity.
The Dutch government claims that the ban does not target any religion or freedom to dress, but instead ensures effective communication in limited locations.
Proponents of this law, though, include anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, who has stated an interest in taking the ban further, specifically by banning headscarves as well. Anti-Islam sentiment is not new in the European Union; the current Dutch ban follows a trend of similar legislation that has coursed through France, Denmark, Belgium, Austria and Germany.
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have called the ban an infringement on women’s rights to choose what they wear, but this right has not been recognized as protected by the European convention of human rights.