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A Danish law that took effect on August 1, 2018 bans the wearing of any garment in a public place that hides the face unless it is for a recognized purpose. Four other European countries have passed national legislation against full-face coverings in public, while an additional five countries have national partial bans. Examining legal and feminist debates, this chapter highlights the fundamental conflict between religious rights and equality rights in Denmark that forms the background to these debates. I argue that the burqa ban is an expression of superficial politics, as it hides the stakes in this underlying conflict. Both politicians and public debates displace the conflict between religion and equality onto an issue that affects only an extremely tiny group of women. In the process, they misrepresent the nature of this conflict. Both at the superficial and the fundamental levels, it is not only women's individual rights, but also the principles of gender equality and opposition to sexist oppression which lose out.
A Danish law that took effect on August 1, 2018 bans the wearing of any garment in a public place that hides the face, unless it is for a recognized purpose. The purpose of the law, according to the Danish Ministry of Justice, is to protect respect for community, the values and coherence in Danish society, and to ensure appropriate social interaction and co-existence. Recognized purposes for exemption include covering one's face because of the cold, wearing costumes for festivals, wearing masks and helmets for sports, security reasons, or health reasons. Danish public authorities like the police must always make a concrete judgment about whether a face covering prevents one from seeing and interpreting another person's facial expression. Examples of face covering that violate the law are burqas, niqābs and ski masks. The Ministry of Justice also specifies measures that are to be taken if there is suspicion of negative social control and it notes the possibility of referring women to crisis centers. It is estimated that between 150 and 200 women in Denmark wear a burqa or niqāb .