Danish ban on face veil unnecessary: Rights groups

Women in niqab are pictured after the Danish Parliament banned the wearing of face veils in public, at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 31, 2018. (Ritzau Scanpix/Mads Claus Rasmussen/via REUTERS)
Updated 01 June 2018
0

Danish ban on face veil unnecessary: Rights groups

  • Denmark is the latest European country to ban the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces.
  • 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, 134 euros).

LONDON: Danish parliamentarians voted 75 to 30 on Thursday to ban garments that cover the face, and although the government denied the law was aimed at any religion, it is perceived to be directed chiefly at Muslim women.
Denmark is the latest European country to ban the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces in a move slammed by human rights campaigners as “a violation of women’s rights.”Human rights groups also said the law was “neither necessary nor proportionate.”
“Anyone who wears a garment that hides the face in public will be punished with a fine,” says the law, which was passed by 75 votes to 30 in the Danish parliament. Another 74 members of the Danish Parliament absented themselves from Thursday’s vote.
Presented by the center-right government, the legislation was also backed by the Social Democrats and the far-right Danish People’s Party.
The new rule will take effect on August 1.
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, 134 euros).
The ban also targets other accessories 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 and burqa in Denmark.
“I don’t think there are many who wear the burqa here in Denmark. But if you do, you should be punished with a fine,” Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen was quoted as saying by Ritzau news agency in February.
Amnesty International condemned the law as a “discriminatory violation of women’s rights,” especially against Muslim women who choose to wear the full-face veils.
“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 the rights to freedom of expression and religion,” the organization’s Europe director Gauri van Gulik said in a statement following the vote.
“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 and in so doing flies in the face of those freedoms Denmark purports to uphold,” she added.
Supporters argue the ban enables better integration of Muslim immigrants into Danish society, claiming the garment is used to oppress women.
“Some people use (the full-face veil) to promote an ideology which, if successful, would mean many others would lose their right to freedom. It’s a matter of balance,” Martin Henriksen, spokesman for the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, told Ritzau.

'I'd rather leave'
But Ayesha Haleem, a Pakistani woman who has been wearing the niqab for the past six years that she’s lived in Denmark, said no one, including her husband, forced her to wear it.
“Many people believe that men force us to wear the niqab or burqa. That’s completely wrong,” she told Danish public broadcaster DR.
“If I didn’t want to wear the niqab then I wouldn’t, even before meeting my husband,” Haleem said. “I’d rather leave the country than take my veil off.”
The full-face veil is a hot-button issue across Europe.
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights upheld a Belgian ban on wearing it in public.
France was the first European country to ban the niqab in public places with a law that took effect in 2011.
German lawmakers approved a partial ban on “covering the face” last year.
According to that legislation, civil servants and officials including judges and soldiers must have their faces uncovered. People can also be required to remove facial coverings in order to match them with their identity papers.
Austria’s law on banning the full-face Muslim garment in public spaces came into force last year.
(Wtih AFP)


Greece ‘turning a page’ as eurozone declares crisis over

Updated 11 min 38 sec ago
0

Greece ‘turning a page’ as eurozone declares crisis over

  • The eurozone ministers’ agreement comes nearly a decade after Athens finances spun out of control, sparking three bailouts and threatening the country’s euro membership.
  • EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici: “The Greek crisis ends here tonight.”

ATHENS: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday said the country was “turning a page” after eurozone ministers declared its crisis over as they granted Athens debt relief under a bailout exit strategy.
The eurozone ministers’ agreement comes nearly a decade after Athens finances spun out of control, sparking three bailouts and threatening the country’s euro membership.
“Yesterday we reached a historic agreement on Greece’s debt with the Eurogroup,” Tsipras told the country’s president, Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
“We are turning a page,” he said, adding that Greece had to remain on the path of reform.
Following the eurozone ministers’ hard-fought agreement declared earlier Friday, Greece is slated to leave its third financial rescue since 2010 on August 20.
“The Greek crisis ends here tonight,” said EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, after marathon talks in Luxembourg.
The deal was expected to be an easy one, but last-minute resistance by Germany — Greece’s long bailout nemesis and biggest creditor — dragged the talks on for six hours.
The ministers agreed to extend maturities by 10 years on major parts of its total debt obligations, a mountain that has reached close to double the country’s annual economic output.
They also agreed to disburse €15 billion ($17.5 billion) to ease Greece’s exit from the rescue program.
This would leave Greece with a hefty €24 billion safety cushion, officials said.
“The agreed debt relief is bigger than we had expected,” Citi European Economics said in a note.
“In particular, the 10-year extension of the EFSF loans’ maturity and most importantly the grace period on interest payments is a significant development,” they added.
“The Greek government is happy with the agreement,” Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said after the talks.
But “to make this worthwhile we have to make sure that the Greek people must quickly see concrete results... they need to feel the change in their own pockets,” he added.
The eight-year crisis toppled four governments and shrank the economy by 25 percent. Unemployment soared and still hovers over 20 percent, sending thousands of young educated Greeks abroad.
Optimism is tempered by Greece’s remaining fiscal obligations, which will demand serious discipline, observers say.
“This is a very tight program. A surplus of 3.5 percent to 2022 and 2.2 percent (on average) to 2060 is not easy at all,” Kostas Boukas, asset management director at Beta Securities, told Athens 9,84 radio.
“We’ll have to see if the pledges will be kept, especially as they depend on international developments as well,” he said.
Under pressure from its creditors, Greece has already agreed to slash pensions again in 2019, and reduce the tax-free income threshold for millions of people in 2020.
Further cuts will be made to maintain the 3.5-percent surplus, if necessary.
“It would be a terrible mistake to cultivate illusions that the end of the bailout means a return to normality,” said pro-opposition daily Ta Nea.
“What follows is tough oversight which no other country has experienced in a post-bailout period,” the daily said.
The European Commission has already specified that Greece will remain under fiscal supervision until it repays 75 percent of its loans.
Athens has received €273.7 billion in assistance since 2010, enabling it to avoid punishing borrowing rates on debt markets.
The International Monetary Fund, led by the tough-talking Christine Lagarde, welcomed the debt relief, but cited reservations about Greece’s obligations over the long term.
“In the medium term analysis there is no doubt in our minds that Greece will be able to reaccess the markets,” Lagarde said after the talks.
“As far as the longer term is concerned we have concerns,” she added.
The reform-pushing IMF played an active role in the two first Greek bailouts, but took only an observer role in the third in the belief that Greece’s debt pile was unsustainable in the long term.