While introducing the "burqa ban" to Danish parliament, Justice Minister Søren Pape Poulsen of the Conservative Party ensured fellow lawmakers that the law would not result in police forcibly removing women's garments, Danish Radio reported.
Women wearing the burqa in public will be either fined or asked to go home, Pape Poulsen certified.
According to the bill, a first-time lawbreaker will be fined DKK 1,000 ($166), which will be increased ten-fold for repeat offences. Failure to pay the fines could result in a prison sentence as a final measure.
If they live nearby, they will be asked to go home, while being accompanied to a police station, from where they will be collected by a family member, the justice minister explained.
"I do not want police officers pulling items of clothing off people — burqas or otherwise. That is not going to happen," Pape Polsen ensured, adding that police would "not be given such instructions".
At the same time, legal experts highlighted a lack of clarity in the burqa ban in how private and public places are defined, in particular where places like asylum centers and prisons will fit.
Pape Poulsen answered that the idea of extending the proposed ban to asylum centers was currently under consideration, and that several options existed.
"It all depends on who is running the given asylum center. If, say, the Red Cross is in charge, you can actually conceive of a dialogue as to whether veils will be tolerated, because it's not a public place as such. However, it's up to the state to provide guidelines," Pape Poulsen said.
The Justice Minister also stressed that not a single full face veil will enter prison, which triggered the skepticism of Kim Østerbye, the chairperson of the Danish Union of Prison Officers. Østerbye ventured that this task would be rather problematic to enforce.
"We would thus have to force people not to wear something they are compelled to do for religious reasons. <…> We are risking some of the inmates completely isolating themselves, as they don't want to show themselves outside their cells," Østerbye told the daily newspaper Politiken, venturing that such a step would make correction work more difficult.
The proposal is expected to pass, despite splits in the governing Liberal and Liberal Alliance parties over the issue. The right-wing Danish People's Party alongside Pape Poulsen's Conservatives are in favor, and are supported by the opposition Social Democrats, which will allow to secure a majority despite the "blue" alliance failing to stand united.
Police officers and courts will be tasked with assessing whether an item of clothing constitutes a breach of the law. Apart from the burqa and the niqab, the list of offensive garments includes balaclavas and face masks that only show the eyes. By contrast, winter clothing worn with "recognizable purpose" will be exempt from the law, if passed.
Previously, full face veils were banned in a number of European nations, including France, Belgium, Latvia, Bulgaria and the Swiss Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, with penalties ranging from $127 to $235.