French court suspends burkini ban

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

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On Friday, France‘s highest administrative court suspended the ban on the burkini, a type of swimwear designed for Islamic women, in the southern French town of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice.

File photo of a burkini.
Image: Giorgio Montersino (flickr).

The court ruling only applied to the ban enforced by Villeneuve-Loubet, which was found to be an illegal breach of fundamental freedoms. Mayors from 30 French towns, who have been imposing the ban, were urged to follow the court’s ruling. However several of the towns, including Nice, have vowed to continue the restrictions and will still fine women who wear the swimsuit.

The decision to ban the burkini faced international scrutiny and sparked debate over women’s rights and French secularism, after photographs emerged on Wednesday of police surrounding a woman in a headscarf on a Nice beach. The women was issued with a fine for her attire but French officials denied the woman had been forced to remove parts of her clothing, as had previously been reported.

Moroccan-born education minster Vallaud-Belkacem objected to the wording of the ban which likened the measure to preventing terrorism. “In my opinion, there is nothing to prove that there is a link between the terrorism of Daesh and what a woman wears on a beach,” she said, using another term for Islamic State.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended the ban on burkinis. “We have to wage a determined fight against radical Islam, against these religious symbols which are filtering into public spaces,” Mr Valls said in an interview on BFM-TV. Mr Valls went on to equate the burkini as “a symbol of the enslavement of women.”

Aheda Zanetti, the Sydney designer who created the burkini, claimed her design was intended to be empowering. “My symbol is freedom, flexibility and confidence,” Zanetti told SBS. I wanted to give power back to them, I wanted to make them more confident,” she said.

The court’s final decision on the legality of the bans is to be made at a later date.


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