Muslim woman in burqa (illustration)
Muslim woman in burqa (illustration)Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

Denmark's controversial ban on the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces came into force on Wednesday, as women protested the new measure which fines anyone wearing the garment, AFP reported.

Denmark in June approved the ban on garments that cover the face, including Islamic veils such as the niqab or burqa, joining other European countries in doing so.

The Danish government first proposed the ban in February, arguing that wearing Islamic full-face veils such as the niqab and burqa in public spaces “is incompatible with the values ​​in Danish society.”

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.

Protests against the ban were held in the capital Copenhagen and the second-biggest city Aarhus late Wednesday, according to AFP.

A spokesman for the Copenhagen police said they did not plan to fine the protesters who violated the ban.

Wearing a burqa, which covers a person's entire face, or the niqab, which only shows the eyes, in public will lead to a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156). Repeat offenses could trigger fines of up to 10,000 kroner or a jail sentence of up to six months.

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

France was the first country to approve similar legislation, having introduced a ban on women wearing the burqa in 2010.

A parliamentary committee in Belgium later voted to ban the burqa as well. Italy has drafted a similar law and, more recently, an Austrian law that forbids any kind of full-face covering, including Islamic veils, came into force.

Amnesty International on Wednesday condemned the Danish law as a "discriminatory violation of women's rights", especially against Muslim women who choose to wear the full-face veils.

"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 - making a mockery of the freedoms Denmark purports to uphold," Deputy Europe Director Fotis Filippou said in a statement quoted by AFP.

"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.