The “burkini ban” that sparked shock and anger around the world has been suspended by a leading French court.
The decision of the Council of State, the highest administrative court in France, was specific to the Riviera town of Villeneuve-Loubet, but the decision should set a legal precedent for the thirty or so seaside resorts that have issued similar decrees.
Photos released earlier in the week showed a woman on a Nice beach being ordered to remove her top and fined by four armed police officers. Other women described being accosted in the same way while sunbathing.
Lawyers for two human rights groups have challenged the legality of the ban, saying it violates fundamental freedoms and that city mayors have largely overstepped their powers by dictating what women can and cannot wear on the beaches.
Patrice Spinosi, representative of the League for Human Rights, said women who have already been fined can protest them based on the court ruling.
“This is a decision that aims to set a legal precedent,” he said. “Today, all the ordinances taken must comply with the decision of the Council of State.
Protesters organize a beach party in burkini in front of the French embassy
“Logically, the mayors should withdraw these ordinances. Otherwise, legal proceedings could be initiated against these cities.
“Today, the rule of law is that these orders are not justified. They violate fundamental freedoms and should be removed.
A burkini is a long swimsuit, designed to allow more women the freedom to go to the beach and go swimming.
It looks like a wetsuit and is not only worn by those who practice Islam.
Many women, including Nigella Lawson, wear the burkini to protect their skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
But mayors in southeastern France had claimed that Burkinis oppress women – even though the garment’s stated purpose is to allow women greater freedoms.
The inventor of the burkini, Australian designer Aheda Zanetti, wrote in the Guardian: “When I invented the burkini in early 2004, it was to give women freedom, not to take it off.
“It was about integration and acceptance, equality and not being judged.
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“I wanted to do something positive – and anyone can wear it, Christian, Jew, Hindu. It’s just a garment for a modest person, or someone with skin cancer, or a new mother who doesn’t want to wear a bikini, it’s not a symbol of Islam. ‘
A demonstration, the “Wear whatever you want Beach Party”, was held yesterday in front of the French embassy in London.
Fariah Syed, one of the organizers, told Metro.co.uk that day: “We organized the event to show our solidarity with Muslim women, not only in France but around the world.
When is a burkini not a burkini?
“The ban on burkini, for us, contradicts all these values that France claims to defend – freedom, equality and fraternity. If a woman is free to expose her body, why is she not free to cover it?
“Women should be allowed to wear what they want, when they want. Women should be treated equally, regardless of their religion.
“This ban perpetuates a stereotype of Muslim women and by removing their freedom of choice, the French government has effectively become the one they claim to be fighting against – oppressors.”