This summer, a day at the pool will be out of reach for some women in the eastern French city of Grenoble, after a Supreme Court upheld a ban on full bathing suits, known as “burkinis”, in public swimming pools.
After a series of protests by local Muslim women, the city had passed an edict in May 2021. It allowed women attending public swimming pools in Grenoble to wear such swimwear.
However, later that month, the city’s administrative court overturned the decision. This was upheld on Tuesday by the French Supreme Administrative Court.
In its ruling, the French Council of State invoked principles of religious neutrality. It was concluded that allowing the use of the burkini would undermine “the equal treatment of users. Thus, the neutrality of the public service was compromised”.
The court said: “Contrary to the stated objective of the city of Grenoble, its initial decision to authorize the burkini was only intended to satisfy a requirement of a religious aspect.”
It was also said that the decision taken in that city would have allowed some bathers to violate “hygiene and safety rules”.
Religious neutrality is enshrined in modern French administrative principles, which were given a boost last year due to the so-called “separatism law” passed by the government of Emmanuel Macron.
The legislation, championed by right-wing Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, explicitly prohibits acts whose “manifested purpose is to yield to sectarian demands for religious purposes.”
In France, Muslim women often find it difficult to ascend to public service, due to the strict limits on demonstrations of religious conviction. This was one of the reasons why such bans have been criticized by human rights advocates, including the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
In 2004, the French government banned visible religious symbols, including Muslim scarves, Jewish kippas and large Christian crosses, in French schools. Full face veils, known as “niqab”, are prohibited in all French public spaces, including public transport, parks, streets and administrative buildings.
Source: CNN Brasil