After a boost from Grenoble: the French government is targeting the “burkinis”.

After the advance from Grenoble
The French government targets the “burkinis”

In Grenoble, topless swimming and the wearing of full swimsuits are now authorized. The French government does not like the latter. It is not the first French city to change the dress codes of public swimming pools.

The French government wants to take action against allowing people to wear a so-called burkini in public swimming pools. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced legal action against a corresponding decision by the city of Grenoble. Grenoble city council on Monday voted to largely lift the dress code for women in the city’s swimming pools.

In the future, women will be allowed to bathe topless as well as in full bathing suits, often worn by Muslim women. While the suggestion of bare breasts has gone largely unnoticed, the burkini in particular is stirring people’s minds. Critics see it as a violation of the principle of secularism, that is to say the strict separation between religion and the state in France.

Burkinis are banned in public swimming pools in France, not for religious reasons, but formally for hygienic reasons. Bathers are also not legally obliged to hide their religion when bathing. Nor was Grenoble the first city to locally abolish the burkini ban. In 2019, without much fanfare, the city of Rennes revised the clothing regulations of its public swimming pools accordingly.

However, Darmanin called the burkini permit in Grenoble an “unacceptable provocation” that does not correspond to French values. The government will take legal action against him. Under a new law against “Islamist separatism” passed by parliament last year, Paris can challenge decisions that undermine France’s strict secular traditions.

The word burkini is a combination of bikini and burqa – the full veil for women demanded by some Islamists. The subject is discussed almost every summer in France. In 2016, several cities in the south of France banned the wearing of burkinis on their beaches. The ban was later found to be discriminatory and overturned.

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