Yesterday, the internet went abuzz with the news of four policemen made a woman remove her burkini at a beach in Nice, France, while another was fined for wearing leggings, tunic and a headscarf, in Cannes, France. Around ten women have so far been criminalised for wearing burkinis on French beaches this summer. The Mayor of Cannes has ruled “”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.”
In 2010, an act was passed by the Senate of France, banning all face-covering headgear, including masks, niqabs, veils, except under special circumstances. The law was challenged and taken to the European Court of Human Rights which upheld the French law on 1 July 2014, accepting the argument of the French government that the law was based on “a certain idea of living together”.
Recently, France has placed a ban on the burkini- a swimwear designed as per Islamic rules of covering the body. The controversial ban is being met with resistance and will come before France’s highest administrative court on Thursday. The Human Rights League (LDH) is appealing a decision by a lower court in Nice which upheld a ban on the outfit by the town of Villeneuve-Loubet.
While we are not commenting on the law per say as the matter is still sub-judice, we strongly believe that taking away a woman’s right to cover her body, is as much a case of gender based violence, as drawing a link between her short clothes and sexual harassment. Gender equality is about giving freedom to women, to decide what they want to wear, and whether they want to cover their bodies in a particular way or not. For any state, or group of people, to actually provide a ruling on women’s clothing, is as much an act of oppression, as mandatorily asking woman to wear a burqa. To draw a link between wearing burkinis and instigating terrorism, is no less than drawing a link between short clothes and rape cases. It’s high time the world focuses on solving problems at the root, rather than focus on superficial aspects of it.
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