The Battle over Burkinis

BY: RILEY FANNING

Staff Writer

France is attempting to help liberate women, ironically by taking away some of their rights. Recently there has been a focus on France and its secular laws pertaining to religious clothing items. In a new decision that has since been overturned, a ban was put on “burkinis”— a full-body swimsuit worn by many Muslim women, as it covers their skin and hair according to their religious beliefs.

In 2004, France passed a law known as “Laïcité” which prohibits wearing religious symbols in public schools, but this mainly affected Muslim girls who chose to wear headscarves. Then in 2010 there was a veil ban, disallowing Muslims to wear burkas. This law has now extended its reach into the burkini debate.

The mayor of Cannes, France—the place which first started the new ban—has stated that the burkini is a “symbol of Islamic extremism” as a reason for why it should not be allowed. The modest bathing suit is considered restrictive and oppressive, and the mayor apparently believes that not allowing women to wear it is somehow saving them.

The problems with the ban especially became known when armed officers surrounded a woman wearing a burkini on a beach in Nice and forced her to remove parts of her garment. Putting aside all else and beginning to objectively view this situation, the real oppression here seems to be the French men demanding a woman to remove her clothes.

The burkini has become a new symbol, a symbol of choice. A woman should have the right to choose to wear a burkini due to her own religious beliefs. Many people take a hard stance on fighting for women to dress however they desire, and in the U.S. that usually means being able to wear as little clothing as you want. This is seen as freedom of choice, freedom from oppression.

If this is so, the opposite should be true. It is not any different from a Muslim woman wanting to be more covered on a beach. These are all personal choices that women should be able to make, and yet even now, in 2016, women are continuously being told what is and isn’t acceptable to put on their bodies.

In a flimsy attempt to help women, France has actually regressed. We need to take a step back and look at the ideas this ban has promoted. The hypocrisy of saying you are fighting for women rights, while simultaneously telling women what they cannot wear, is astounding.

While you may advocate for this ban now, one must consider the allowance of a government to choose what its people can and can’t wear. The more power people give the government, the more it will take. The waters could become murky, and who knows what else could be banned next. This sets a precedent in France that what they perceive as “other” is not only unwelcome, but is, by law, not allowed.

Banning the burkini is not solving terrorism, nor is it helping women gain rights. It’s an example of a government grossly overreaching and exerting excessive control over personal clothing choices.

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