Denmark’s ban on the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces came into force on Wednesday, with anyone wearing a garment that hides the face in public risking a fine.
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.
Wearing a burqa, which covers the entire face, or the niqab, which shows only the eyes, in public will lead to a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156, 134 euros).
The ban also targets other items that hide the face such as balaclavas and false beards. Repeated violations will be fined up to 10,000 kroner.
It is not known how many women wear the niqab or burqa in Denmark.
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 spokesman for Denmark’s national police said that as of 2:30 pm (1230 GMT), no violations of the ban had been registered.
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”.
Born and raised in Denmark by parents who emigrated from Turkey, she has worn the niqab since she was 18.
“I’ve realised that democracy doesn’t work. Politicians boast of freedoms and rights when they are making fun of Muslims and when they are drawing caricatures of the prophet. But when it comes to me, they take away my right to choose how I want to dress,” she said.
“I have come to the realisation that Muslims don’t have the same rights as others. So much of politics is hypocritical.”
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”.
But Sarah said that instead of enabling Muslims to integrate Danish values, the ban risked having the opposite effect of increasing segregation.
“When the mosque is one of the few places where we can (wear veils), then I think the law will mean that more people will go to the mosque.”
The full-face veil is a hot-button issue across Europe.
Belgium, France, Germany and Austria have already imposed bans or partial bans.