A French court has upheld a ban on “burkini” in the city’s swimming pools

A day at the pool will be inaccessible to some women this summer in the east French language city โ€‹โ€‹of Grenoble, after a high court upheld the ban on swimwear known as “burkini” in public swimming pools.

Following a series of demonstrations by local Muslim women, the city issued a decree in May 2021 allowing swimmers in public swimming pools in Grenoble to wear swimsuits.

But later that month, the city’s administrative court overturned the ruling – a decision upheld on Tuesday by France ‘s highest administrative court.

Nissrine Samali, 20, enters the sea wearing a burkini, a wet-looking suit that also covers her head, in Marseille, in southern France.
Nissrine Samali, 20, enters the sea wearing a burkini, a wet-looking suit that also covers her head, in Marseille, in southern France. (AP)

In its decision, the French Council of State invoked the principles of religious neutrality, concluding that the “burkini” license would undermine “equal treatment of users, so as to jeopardize the neutrality of public service.”

“Contrary to the’s goal of the city of Grenoble,” the city’s initial decision to approve the burkini was intended “only to satisfy a religious requirement,” the court said.

He also said that Grenoble’s decision would allow some bathers to violate “hygiene and safety rules”.

Religious neutrality is enshrined in the modern French administration, which was boosted last year by the so-called “separatist law” passed by the government of Emanuel Macron.

Nesrine Kenza is pictured wearing a burqa on the beach in Marseille, France.
Nesrine Kenza is pictured wearing a burqa on the beach in Marseille. (AP)

The legislation, backed by right-wing Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, explicitly prohibits acts whose “obvious purpose is to yield to pleading requests for religious purposes.”

Muslim women in France often have difficulty accessing public services because of strict restrictions on the display of religious beliefs – one reason such bans have been criticized by human rights defenders, including the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

The French government in 2004 banned “distinctive” religious symbols such as Muslim headscarves, Jewish skull caps and large Christian crosses from French schools.

The veil, known as the niqab, is banned in all French public places, including public transport and parks, streets and government buildings.

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