United Nations weighs in on burqini ban debate
AFP/The Local · 30 Aug 2016, 12:19
Published: 30 Aug 2016 12:19 GMT+02:00
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- Women shoppers flout burqa ban in Ticino (04 Aug 16)
- Ticino tourist sector has 'real fears' over effect of burqa ban (11 Jul 16)
- Anger as Basel pool bans 'maxi burqinis' (29 Apr 16)
"These decrees do not improve the security situation but rather fuel religious intolerance and the stigmatization 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.
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 polarization 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," he said.
Switzerland is currently weighing up its own thoughts on the burqa and burqini in light of international events and the introduction of the burqa ban in the canton of Ticino in July.
A recent study found that over 70 percent of Swiss would back a nationwide burqa ban.