Face-veiling has given rise to an ongoing debate in Danish political and public discourse since the beginning of 2000. Originally, the focus was on Muslim headscarves, but over time face-veiling became the main focus of attention. Inspired by the French discussions regarding a general burka-ban, the right-wing Minister of Justice and members of his political party uttered similar views in 2010. However, the Ministry of Justice found that such legislation would be in conflict with the Danish constitution and, in particular, the right to freedom of religion. Consequently, Parliament decided to amend the Criminal Code by specifically criminalizing face-veiling. The provision enacted to that effect adds to the general ban on punishable duress by stipulating an enhanced maximum penalty of 4 years imprisonment in comparison with a general latitude of 2 years imprisonment for other types of coercion.
This presentation will deal with the legislative process in relation to the adoption of the provision regarding coerced face-veiling, which has been criticized for stigmatizing the Muslim minority in Denmark. Report on the current situation of face-veiling, ordered by the Danish Government, in relation to reading of the bill in Parliament, indicated that approx. 100-200 women in Denmark are wearing face-veils. No incidents concerning coercion has been documented. Thus, the alleged problem with face-veiling is limited. The aim of the presentation is to show how the Danish Criminal Code has been used by the Danish Government in a context of moral panic to implement symbolic legislation that actually has not subsequently been applied one single time by the judiciary.