After being challenged by rights groups, France’s highest administrative court overturned a controversial ban on the burkini in a coastal town!
The ruling from the state council on Friday specifically pertains to the southeastern town of Villeneuve-Loubet — lifting the ban of the single piece, head covering swimsuit designed for Muslim women — but sets a legal precedent for the roughly 30 towns that have issued similar bans.
Human Rights League lawyer Patrice Spinosi told press that other mayors who banned the outfit must follow the ruling, and that women who have been fined for wearing burkinis can now challenge the penalties.
The state council ruled that the mayor of the southern resort town did not have a right to issue a ban, noting that authorities could only restrict individual liberties if there was a “proven risk.”
Rights group lawyers argued the bans — which reached a social boiling point earlier this week when a woman was forced to remove her head scarf and long sleeved shirt on the beach by armed police — were feeding fear and infringing on basic freedom.
Though all mayors will be expected to follow suit, not everyone plans on doing so. Ange-Pierre Vivoni, the mayor of French Mediterranean island town Sisco, said he would not lift the ban after the ruling, telling press:
“Here the tension is very, very, very strong and I won’t withdraw it.”
Initially, the ban was implemented by the towns across France after a wave of terror attacks increased religious tensions, and was heavily influenced by the rise of Islamophobia in Europe due to a spike of immigrants from Islamic nations.
The ban’s supporters argue the burkini is a symbol of Islam’s repression of women, but according to Aheda Zanetti, the creator of the burkini, the garment is a symbol of feminism and empowerment — allowing Muslim women the freedom to do more while still protecting their modesty.
John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International‘s Europe director, said overturning the ban will “protect the rights of women” instead of assaulting their freedoms, writing in a statement:
“By overturning a discriminatory ban that is fuelled by and is fuelling prejudice and intolerance, today’s decision has drawn an important line in the sand. French authorities must now drop the pretence that these measures do anything to protect the rights of women. Rather, invasive and discriminatory measures such as these restrict women’s choices and are an assault on their freedoms of expression, religion and right to non-discrimination.”
With racial tensions still high in the country, many continue to support the ban — but at least human rights lawyers got the ball rolling on putting an end to the discriminatory measure.
[Image via Aheda Zanetti/The Guardian.]