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French Court Upholds Ban on Burkinis in Swimming Pools

A day at the pool will be out of reach for Muslim women this summer in the eastern French city of Grenoble, after a higher court upheld a ban on full-length swimsuits known as “burkinis’ in public swimming pools.

The Council of State, France’s top court, affirmed Tuesday that the city of Grenoble could not allow women to wear the head-to-toe swimsuit known at public swimming pools, citing France’s strict secularism rules known as “laicité” or equality, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Contrary to the claimed objective of the city of Grenoble,” Grenoble’s edict aimed “only to satisfy a demand of a religious nature,” the Council of State said.

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Grenoble’s city council said it regrets the court’s decision, adding it aimed to allow equal access to public swimming pools.

Éric Piolle, Grenoble’s Green Party mayor, had defended the proposal, saying women should be free to wear whatever they want in public.

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Controversies

The burkini is a swimming costume that covers the entire body, including the head, leaving only the face, hands and feet visible.

The French city of Grenoble approved a decision in May, 2022, to allow women to wear ‘burkinis’ in state-run swimming pools.

Last month’s decision came after protests in the city that began in 2018. In 2020 and 2021 a group of activists from the community grassroots association Alliance Citoyenne protested by wearing burkinis in Grenoble’s swimming pools. 

Muslim women in France often have difficulty accessing public services due to strict limits on displays of religious conviction.

There is no national law against the burkini but in 2016, a series of towns banned the garment from beaches, in Cannes, Corsica, and Le Touquet, on the grounds that it was an ostentatious religious symbol at odds with French secularism.

Many commentators criticized the decision, seeing burkini as something that grants so many women access to sports and experiences they would have otherwise avoided because of health, body or religious concerns.

📚 Read Also: Muslim Women Defy Burkini Ban at French Pool