After the city of Grenoble, France, previously made an exemption against the country’s ban on burkinis, the higher courts reversed that decision on Tuesday, upholding the French ban on burkini swimwear in public pools, according to EuroNews.
Driving the news: In May, Grenoble mayor Eric Piolle led a vote that allowed women to wear burkinis in the city’s public pools, according to France 24.
- Higher courts blocked Grenoble’s motion to allow burkinis, stating that it violated France’s secular laws.
- Overall, France has strict laws when it comes to clothing at public pools, France 24 says. Swim caps are required, and baggy clothes such as men’s swim trunks are banned. Officials say these rules are in place for hygiene related reasons.
What is a burkini? A burkini is a mix of the words “burka” and “bikini,” BBC reports.
- Burkinis are swimwear that cover everything but the hands, feet and the face.
- Despite the root word “burka,” burkinis don’t cover the face, as traditional burkas do.
- Burkinis are usually worn by Muslim women “as a way for them to swim in public while adhering to strict modesty edicts,” BBC says.
Why doesn’t France allow burkinis? Following the French Revolution, France developed “secular” laws to focus on separating church and state, according to the website of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs in France.
- These laws emphasize leaving religion in the private sector, and attempt to avoid favoring any one religion.
- Some believe that the allowance of burkinis violates secular law, claiming that it makes unfair accommodations to those of the Muslim faith.
- Conservative leaders in France, as well as some members of President Emmanuel Macron’s party, say that burkinis are “a symbol of radical Islam and a threat to the nation’s values,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
- According to NPR, the French council states that allowance of burkinis undermines France’s policy of equal treatment and religious neutrality.
- Some also believe that allowing burkinis will make way for religious extremism. Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called the swimwear “a symbol of the enslavement of women.”
Arguments for burkinis: On the other hand, advocates for the burkini argue that these laws do the opposite of encouraging equal rights.
- Women advocating for burkinis state that the swimwear doesn’t allow for extremism. They claim, according to NPR, that extremists wouldn’t allow women to swim in the first place.
- Piolle, the mayor of Grenoble, says that people should be allowed to dress how they please in public areas, including swimming pools, per EuroNews.
- Other advocates argue that under this ruling, “some women would choose, or be pressured by family members, to stay away from public swimming pools,” according to Reuters.
Other French bans: Secularity laws have led to other clothing bans in the country that critics argue are Islamophobic, pointing hatred to those of the Islamic religion, Vox reports.
- In official areas, such as public schools or government offices, people are not allowed to display any religious symbols, according to NPR. This includes any religious clothing or attire, per the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs website.
- In 2016, mayors in the south of France attempted to ban the burkini on public beaches. However, these restrictions were overturned “for being discriminatory,” CBS News says.