French debate on burkinis flares up


Western Europe


Women wearing burkinis at the beach. Photo EPA, Mohamed Messara

The French government wants to take action against the permission for wearing a burkini in public swimming pools. The French city of Grenoble recently lifted the ban on the swimsuits. But Paris speaks about an “unacceptable provocation”.

Recently, the city council of Grenoble decided to allow women to wear full-body swimsuits in public swimming places. That is reported by the Austrian news agency Religion.orf. The city council passed the motion, also allowing topless bathing, with a slight majority of 29 votes in favour and 27 votes against. "We want public offerings to be accessible to everyone. We want everyone to be able to bathe 'topless', both women and men, and that everyone can bathe covered, women and men", Mayor Piolle said in justification. Muslim women often wear the burkini because it covers the body more than regular swimsuits. Officially it used to be forbidden for hygienic reasons.

While the permission for topless bathing was accepted without problems, abolishing the ban on burkinis caused much upheaval in French society. According to a spokeswoman for the ruling party of France, the new legislation contradicts Republican values, such as secularism and equality before the law. The opposition in the city council has already filed an appeal against the city council's decision.

Legal action against the decision

The French interior minister Gerald Darmanin also opposes the Grenoble legislation on burkinis. He announced that he would take legal action against the decision, Religion.orf reports. Darmanin calls the legislation an "unacceptable provocation."

Furthermore, Darmanin asked the prefect of Isère, which is located within the area of Grenoble, to suspend permission for burkinis. That is reported by La Croix. Earlier, the prefect had already announced that he would block the measure of the city council if it were passed.

Yet, mayor Piolle from Grenoble rejects the criticism he receives. He sees his initiative as a sign of secularism, as there is no ban on wearing religious clothing in public spaces, "not even in the swimming pool."

Only Muslims are in favour of the permission

According to Valeurs Actuelles, the majority of the French population objects to the permission for wearing burkinis in public swimming pools and on beaches. Only Muslims seem to support the motion, the news agency writes. "72 per cent of them want permission for the swimsuits that cover the entire body of women, part of their limbs and their heads. Furthermore, 75 per cent of French Muslims are also in favour of establishing time slots reserved for women."

In 2016, several French cities banned the burkinis from their beaches. This ban was later ruled to be discriminatory.



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