STRASBOURG – Muslim parents will be forced to send their girls to mixed swimming classes with boys after Europe’s rights top court ruled against a Turkish-Swiss couple who argued the classes violated their beliefs.
School plays “a special role in the process of social integration, particularly where children of foreign origin were concerned,” ruled the court, which is based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.
Swimming lessons are “not just to learn to swim, but above all to take part in that activity with all the other pupils”, it added.
The case was brought by two Swiss nationals of Turkish origin, Aziz Osmanoglu and his wife Sehabat Kocabas, whose daughters were born in 1999 and 2001.
All their appeals were rejected by Swiss courts, after which they took their case to Strasbourg.
Education officials, however, said that exemptions were available only for girls who had reached the age of puberty, which the girls had not reached at the time.
In 2010, after a long-running dispute, the parents were ordered to pay a fine of almost 1,300 euros ($1,375) “for acting in breach of their parental duty”.
The court said Switzerland was free to design its education system “according to their needs and traditions”.
Tuesday’s ruling is not final as the parents have three months to appeal the decision.
According to the CIA Factbook, Switzerland is home to some 400,000 Muslims, representing 5 percent of the country’s nearly eight million people.
In 2009, a nationwide vote backed a constitutional ban on new minarets.