UN hails suspension of France's burkini ban, slams "stigmatisation"
The UN on Tuesday welcomed a decision by France's highest administrative court to suspend a controversial ban on burkini swimwear, warning that the ban had fuelled religious intolerance and stigmatisation.
"These decrees do not improve the security situation but rather fuel religious intolerance and the stigmatisation of Muslims in France, especially women," Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN rights office, told reporters. "Dress codes such as the anti-burkini decrees disproportionately affect women and girls, undermining their autonomy by denying them the ability to make independent decisions about how to dress and clearly discriminate against them," he said.
He also decried that "the manner in which the anti-burkini decrees have been implemented in some French resorts has been humiliating and degrading."
Around 30 coastal resorts have recently banned women from wearing the full-body swimwear on their beaches, although France's highest administrative court on Friday overturned the measure in one town, in a ruling likely to set a legal precedent which will affect the others.
Belgium: Burkini meets bikini
Muslim women in Belgium organised a different kind of protest. They gathered in Antwerp to celebrate at a beach party, dressed in burkinis, bikinis or bathing suits. Their motto was: "We are women and we are free". By Greta Hamann
Against the burkini ban: it's not a real beach and not France; nonetheless, it was a symbolic gesture against the now-overturned burkini ban on some French beaches. "Women and men should decide for themselves what they want to wear," said a woman wearing a bikini at the event
Celebrating together – no matter what clothes you wear: some wear burkinis, others wear bikinis - and everyone is happy. That is the message the protesters want to convey. Organisers had originally expected 300 people; over 1,000 people expressed their interest on Facebook
Completely covered at a beach party: the young women proved that you don't have to show lots of skin or wear beach attire at a summer party. Some came completely covered in a niqab and others came with a headscarf
'Ridiculous ban': "The ban is ridiculous. I want to wear what I want to wear. Women and men everywhere should be free to dress or undress themselves, depending on what they prefer," the young woman in a blue burkini (left) told Flanders News
We don't wear tents: the party was also a statement against the mayor of Antwerp who, according to reports in the Belgian newspaper "Gazet van Antwerpen," said that veiled women "wore tents"
Demonstration of solidarity: in Belgium, Muslims have the second largest religious community after Christians. Most Muslims are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Unity is something seldom seen in the country divided by the Flemish and Walloons
Right-wing protest: during the peaceful beach party, a few far-right anti-Islam demonstrators protested against the event. They chanted, "No jihad on our streets!"
Pro-burkini protests elsewhere: "Wear what you want" beach parties were held in London and Berlin. Activists brought sand to the French Embassy in London for their celebration
The bans come in the wake of a string of Islamist attacks to hit France over the past 18 months, which have raised questions over security failures and resulted in a spike in Islamophobia.
Colville said the UN rights office welcomed the ruling affecting the seaside town of Villeneuve-Loubet, urging authorities in other French seaside towns and resorts that had adopted similar bans "to repeal them immediately."
He stressed that the bans would do nothing to make people safer.
"Clearly, individuals wearing burkinis, or any other form of clothing for that matter, cannot be blamed for the violent or hostile reactions of others," he said.
He warned that "by stimulating polarisation between communities, these clothing bans have only succeeded in increasing tensions ... (and may) undermine the effort to fight and prevent violent extremism."
Colville pointed out that according to international human rights standards, "limitations on manifestations of religion or belief, including choice of clothing, are only permitted in very limited circumstances, including public safety, public order and public health or morals."
Such measures, he said, "must be appropriate, necessary and proportionate. Gender equality cannot be achieved by restricting individual freedoms including by policing what individual women choose to wear." (AFP)
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