controversy over the burkini ban is coming to a head in france

The disputed ban on burqa-style swimsuits is being appealed in court after an incident in Nice yesterday.

by Annie Armstrong
24 August 2016, 7:55pm

In the most recent installment of "men controlling women's bodies": four male police officers asked a beachgoer in Nice, France to remove part of her bathing suit because of its religious connotations. Last week, Nice joined 15 other cities along the French Riviera in banning swimmers from wearing a burkini, a swimsuit that emulates the full-body coverage of a burqa. Images surfaced yesterday, on French news source AFP, of four armed police officers approaching a sleeping woman and asking her to remove the headscarf section of her bathing suit.

According to The Guardian, the woman was a 34-year-old named Siam. She stated, "I was sitting on a beach with my family… I was wearing a classic headscarf." A witness to the scene confirmed the incident, saying, "The saddest thing was that people were shouting 'go home,' some were applauding the police… Her daughter was crying."

Since images of the incident have surfaced, outrage has grown online under the Twitter hashtag #BurkiniBan. People have pointed out how similar the burkini is in appearance to a wetsuit, the irony that France just held a march to protect and promote freedom of expression, and the racism inherent in the fact that nuns are not treated in the same way.

Nice introduced the ban on "beach [outfits] showing in an ostentatious manner a religious affiliation" in response to the series of jihadi attacks in France this year, citing France's long history of constitutional secularism. But, due to its vast unpopularity, the nationwide ban on face-covering religious garments has been appealed by the French Human Rights League (an NGO), and will go to trial in the high administrative court.


Text Annie Armstrong