France’s highest court has suspended a ban on full-body burkini swimsuits, stating that the controversial decree impacted “the freedom of beliefs and individual freedom”.
Coming shortly after a photograph emerged of a woman appearing to be forced to take clothing off by armed police on a beach in Nice, the move by supreme court Conseil d'Etat sees the ban temporarily lifted in one town pending a later ruling, as Reuters reports.
The test case was brought by human rights organisations in Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, one of several coastal towns to prohibit “beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation”. While only effective in the southern town, it is thought it will set a precedent.
A lower court ruled earlier this week that the ban was “necessary, appropriate and proportionate” to prevent public disorder, but Human Rights League and and Collective Against Islamophobia in France appealed the decision.
The mayoral decrees banning burkini-style outfits on beaches followed the Bastille Day terrorist attack in Nice and the murder of a priest in Normandy.
According to the court, the ban “seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms to come and go, freedom of beliefs and individual freedom”.
The creator of the burkini, Aheda Zanetti, wrote an impassioned defence of the garment earlier this week, saying she designed it to “give women freedom, not to take it away.”
She added: “You’ve taken a product that symbolised happiness and joyfulness and fitness, and turned it into a product of hatred.”
According to the BBC, Amnesty International director John Dalhuisen said of the suspension: “French authorities must now drop the pretence that these measures do anything to protect the rights of women.
“These bans do nothing to increase public safety but do a lot to promote public humiliation.”
The ban suspension in Villeneuve-Loubet will remain in place until a final decision is made.