Update: French Court Overturns Burkini Ban

Photo: REX/Shutterstock.
Update: A French court overturned the ban on burkinis in public beaches introduced earlier this summer, the AP reports. The decision comes after a series of images of women dressed modestly being approached by armed policemen on the French Riviera have gone viral. Per the ban, a burkini-clad woman would need to remove the covered-up swimsuit to avoid being fined 38 euros (roughly $43).

This ruling specifically concerns Villeneuve-Loubet, a town in southeastern France. But the court's decision is expected to reach 30 other coastal towns in the French Riviera that have adopted similar bans on the modest garment, per the AP. (The ban in Cannes, which was put in place at the end of July, is set to lift on August 31, CNN reported.) Women who have been ticketed for wearing burkinis on the beach will be able to contest the charges, according to one of the human rights lawyers that argued against the widely criticized decree.

France's decision to police the clothing women can wear on the beach has sparked a worldwide conversation about the ethics — and the legality — of such restrictions. Aheda Zanetti, the Australian designer credited as the burkini's inventor, argued that the government's reasoning behind the ban completely missed the point of the garment, in a column for The Guardian. "It's just a garment to suit a modest person, or someone who has skin cancer, or a new mother who doesn't want to wear a bikini, it's not symbolizing Islam," Zanetti wrote. "This has given women freedom, and they want to take that freedom away? So who is better, the Taliban or French politicians? They are as bad as each other."

Despite the restrictions in France, burkini sales have reportedly gone up since the ban was put in place, according to Zanetti.

This story was originally published on August 16, 2016.

The Mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, is offended by women being able to dress how they like in the sun, and has banned burkinis on the beaches of the French Riviera. Burkinis are full-body swimsuits that allow women to cover their bodies while still being able to enjoy the sun, sea, and sand a typical beach has to offer. Nigella Lawson rocked one a few years back to protect her skin, but they are most commonly worn by Muslim women looking to dress modestly.

This ruling comes despite the fact that French women are covering up on the beach more than ever and topless sunbathing on the south of France has been declining for years. Lisnard called burkinis "the symbol of Islamic extremism" and added that they could disrupt public order, reported French news agency Agence-France Presse.

Lisnard said anyone "wearing improper clothes that are not respectful of good morals and secularism" would be banned from accessing beaches. "Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order," he added.

Anyone caught ignoring the burkini ban will be fined €38 (approximately $43) if they fail to leave the beach or change into another swimsuit. Cannes will still allow other religious symbols, such as the kippah, Jewish skullcap, and the Christian cross on the beach. Muslim women will still be permitted to wear the veil over their hair. According to reports, no one has been caught wearing a burkini since the ban was enacted in late July. Many have voiced opposition to the ban and The League of Human Rights (LDH), a human rights NGO in France, said it would challenge it in court. Local LDH leader Hervé Lavisse said politicians in the region should "calm their discriminatory ardor and defend the spirit of the Republic," the BBC reported.

Earlier this week, a private burkini pool party for Muslim women in nearby Marseille was cancelled after it was deemed a "threat to public order."
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