Denmark: Face veil ban a discriminatory violation of women's rights

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Supporters and opponents of a Danish ban on garments covering the face, including Islamic veils such as the niqab or burqa, have clashed in a war of words as the law took effect. Repeat offences could trigger further fines of up to 10,000 kroner or a jail sentence of up to six months.

Protests against the ban were planned in the capital Copenhagen and the second-biggest city Aarhus late Wednesday, with several hundred people expected to attend - some of them wearing the full-face veil.

A 30-year-old Muslim woman interviewed in daily Berlingske, identified only as Sarah, said on Wednesday that she had "lost faith in the system". "But when it comes to me, they take away my right to choose how I want to dress", she said.

"Everybody wants to define what Danish values are", said Meryem, 20, who was born in Denmark to Turkish parents and has been wearing the niqab since before meeting her husband, who supports her right to wear it but feels life could be easier without.

"I feel this law legitimises acts of hatred but, on the other hand, I feel people have become more aware of what is going on". Politicians boast of freedoms and rights when they are making fun of Muslims and when they are drawing caricatures of the prophet. "So much of politics is hypocritical". "Instead, the law criminalizes women for their choice of clothing - making a mockery of the freedoms Denmark purports to uphold". "[The new law] is against the constitution in Denmark, so we're trying to fight that", Maria, who requested not to use her full name, from dialogue group Kvinder i Dialog said.

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On August 1, when face veils are banned in Denmark, Sabina will not be leaving her niqab at home. Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen said officers would fine them and tell them to go home.

When the government presented its proposal for the ban in February, it said the burka and niqab were not "compatible with the values and sense of community in Danish society".

The full-face veil is a hot-button issue across Europe.

"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 women's rights to freedom of expression and religion", he added.

Belgium, France, Germany and Austria have already imposed bans or partial bans.

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