France overturns burkini ban after outrage spreads across world

A Moroccan woman wearing a “burkini”, a full-body swimsuit designed for Muslim women, enters the sea at Oued Charrat beach, near the capital Rabat.
Image: AFP/Getty Images

After worldwide condemnation, France’s top administrative court overturned a ban on the Muslim swimwear item, the burkini, in one French town.

The ban of the burkini, which covers a woman’s head and body, on French Riviera beaches has been a topic of much conversation in recent weeks. It has also caused division in France’s government and society.

The uproar reached a high point on Tuesday, when a photograph of a woman being asked to remove her burkini by armed police on a Nice beach spread like wildfire across the internet.

The ruling by the Council of State on Friday specifically concerns a ban in the Riviera town of Villeneuve-Loubet, but the binding decision is expected to set a legal precedent for all the 30 or so French resort municipalities that have issued similar decrees.

Lawyers for two human rights groups challenged the legality of the ban to the top court, saying the order infringes basic freedoms and that mayors have overstepped their powers by telling women what to wear on beaches.

The burkini ban was introduced in the resort town of Cannes on July 28 following terror attacks in the country, including an attack on Nice in which a man drove a truck into a crowd on Bastille Day and killed 86 people. Following that ban, 15 other French resort towns banned the burkini.

Women who break the law face a fine of 38 ($42), and many have been fined. Lawyer Patrice Spinosi, representing the Human Rights League, said that women who have already received fines can protest them following Friday’s decision.

– Additional reporting by the Associated Press.


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