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Dutch burqa ban comes into effect but few public areas will enforce it

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Dutch burqa ban comes into effect but few public areas will enforce it
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Reuters
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Any garment that entirely hides the face including burqas and ski masks are from Thursday banned from Dutch public spaces but doubts remain over how the legislation will be enforced.

The rule, ratified last summer by the Senate, defines the ban as "partial" and not "total," because it only limits the use of these garments in public areas such as schools, hospitals, public transportation and government buildings.

Although it was expected to take effect earlier this July, schools requested it be postponed so that its application did not complicate the end of the school year and cause tensions with mothers who use Islamic garments such as the burqa — which covers the entire face — or the niqab, which leaves the area around the eyes clear.

Can it be enforced?

However, there are still doubts over how it will be enforced in practice with those found in breach to be fined €150 as some people will continue to be allowed to cover their faces in public for health and safety reasons.

Furthermore, transport companies have already signalled they will not enforce the ban in order to prevent delays. Bus and train drivers are required to deny entry to any person whose face is hidden and are obliged to stay still until police arrive.

The police, meanwhile, after consultation with the government, said that they will not go "after a moving tram in which a person is breaking the law by covering their face."

The Dutch Federation of University Medical Centres also rejected the implementation of the law over fears that women with burqas will avoid medical care if they are not allowed to enter the centres and warned that hospitals "should not take care of this task, which is the responsibility of the Police and the judiciary. "

A spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Interior explained that they will continue talking with the competent authorities to discuss the implementation of the law and stressed that there are always doubts about how to force compliance of new rules.

Freedom of religion

The ban was put on the agenda thirteen years ago by the ultra-right-wing politician Geert Wilders, who demanded a total ban on the burka because, according to him, it prevents the integration of women into the social and working life of the country.

In response to this ban, the Islamist party of Rotterdam, NIDA, offered to pay fines to women who choose to continue using this garment in public spaces, and warned that "freedom of religion is at stake" and that it would lead to the stigmatisation and isolation "of women who wear the integral veil."

The Netherlands follows in the footsteps of Denmark, France and Belgium where the ban also extends to the streets, after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2014 that such a law does not violate religious freedoms.

On the other hand, in Italy (in Novara, near Milan) and Spain (in Catalonia) some limitations have been imposed on the burqa, although not at the state level.