First woman fined in Denmark for wearing full-face veil

A 28-year-old woman wearing a niqab on Friday became the first person in Denmark to be fined for violating a new controversial law banning full-face Islamic veils in public places, media reported.

First woman fined in Denmark for wearing full-face veil
Photo: AFP

Police were called to a shopping centre in Horsholm, in the northeastern region of Nordsjaelland, where the woman had become involved in a scuffle with another woman who had tried to tear her niqab off, police duty officer David Borchersen told the Ritzau news agency.

“During the fight her niqab came off, but by the time we arrived she had put it back on again,” Borchersen said.

Police took a photograph of the woman wearing the niqab, and obtained security camera footage from the shopping centre of the incident.

The woman was informed she would receive a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156, 134 euros) in the post, and was told to either remove her veil or leave the public space.

“She chose the latter,” Borchersen said. As of August 1, wearing a burqa, which covers a person's entire face, or
the niqab, which only shows the eyes, in public carries a fine of 1,000 kroner.

Repeated violations are fined up to 10,000 kroner.

The ban also targets other accessories that hide the face such as balaclavas, masks and false beards.

Human rights campaigners have slammed the ban as a violation of women's rights, while supporters argue it enables better integration of Muslim immigrants into Danish society.

The full-face veil is a hot-button issue across Europe. Belgium, France, Germany and Austria have already imposed bans or partial bans. 


One year on: What happened after Denmark’s ‘burqa ban’ came into force?

A controversial ban on wearing face-masking garments in public, widely referred to as the ‘burqa ban’, came into effect in Denmark on August 1st last year.

One year on: What happened after Denmark’s 'burqa ban' came into force?
Niqabi women protest against Denmark's ban on face-covering garments on August 1st, 2018. Photo: Andrew Kelly / Reuters / Ritzau Scanpix

Since then, 23 people have been fined under the law, according to National Police figures reported by Kristeligt Dagblad.

The ban came into effect a year ago on Thursday, imposing a fine of 1,000 kroner (134 euros) for first offences on individuals wearing garments including the burqa, which covers a person's entire face, or the niqab, which only shows the eyes, as well as other accessories that hide the face such as balaclavas.

Hundreds of people protested against the ban in Copenhagen and Aarhus on August 1st last year. The Local attended the demonstration which took place in the Nørrebro neighbourhood in the capital and spoke to niqab-wearing women about the law.

A majority consisting of the Liberal, Conservative and Danish People’s parties, the Social Democrats, and some Liberal Alliance members, last year voted the law through parliament. It therefore split opinion on both the left and right wings.

Broadly, proponents claimed the ban would prevent suppression of women’s rights. When it proposed the law change, the Ministry of Justice said that the burqa and niqab were not “compatible with the values and sense of community in Danish society”.

READ ALSO: Police will not forcibly remove veils from women: Danish justice minister

Critics said that the ban infringed religious freedom – something Denmark’s constitution guarantees – and Amnesty International in 2018 condemned the law as a “discriminatory violation of women's rights”, especially against Muslim women who choose to wear the full-face veils.

The effectiveness the burqa ban is difficult to measure given the low number of fines issued, according to Margit Warburg, a sociologist specializing in religion at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies.

“You can’t say, based on 23 fines, whether the ban works as it was intended. Maybe the (affected) women don’t go out very much? Maybe no-one calls the police? Or it could be because people actually have removed their niqab. In reality, we don’t know,” Warburg told Kristeligt Dagblad.

The number of people who wear the Islamic veil in Denmark is limited to approximately 150-200 niqab wearers, around half of whom are converts to Islam, Warburg estimates. Very few women – perhaps none at all – wear the burqa, according to the researcher, who led a 2009 report on the prevalence of the Islamic veil in the country.

READ ALSO: 'From one day to another, we're criminals': Muslim women speak against Denmark's burqa ban