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A woman posing in burkini, Source: Engin Akyurt on Pixabay

Grenoble: topless bathing and burkini authorised in municipal pools

Grenoble: topless bathing and burkini authorised in municipal pools

The highly contested decision was approved yesterday with a minor margin

Yesterday, the Municipal Council of Grenoble adopted a new regulation on municipal pools. The changes de facto authorise wearing burkini, as well as topless bathing, as French media report. The decision on burkini, in particular, follows a heated and lengthy debate and was passed by a fragile majority.

A divided city council on swimwear

A highly contested debate took place at the building of the Metropolis of Grenoble yesterday, under the close media observation and public scrutiny of some 200 people, gathered in front of the building. The reason: the proposed new regulation on municipal pools.

And while there were several changes on the agenda (including the mandatory accompaniment of children under 12, and the obligation to wear bathing caps), it was one point that most attracted the public and political attention for several hours on - swimwear.

As Le Monde reports, Article 10 prohibits loose shorts and T-shirts (for hygiene-related reasons) and imposes “specific fabrics for swimming, fitted close to the body”, which can cover the arms and legs. Hence, after 1 June, access to municipal swimming pools in Grenoble is allowed with swimwear, but without limits on its length. This way, without explicitly naming it, the regulation de facto authorises burkini, which is a novel and highly contradictory measure.

The latter is testified by the fact that the majority to vote for the change was just 29 to 27 with only 2 councillors abstaining. The disapproval came mostly from the opposition councillors but also from 13 councillors from the majority of green Mayor Eric Piolle's group, including his deputy-mayor. The motive for the decision, as Piolle puts it, is so that pool users (men and women) are able to dress as they please.

What is wrong with the burkini?

Burkini represents a long-fitted type of swimwear for women which covers the entire body, except for the face, hands and feet. It's most popular among Muslim women and is associated with religious freedoms or rather – the lack of personal such, as imposed on women. Thus, the burkini is taken as a type of wear that imposes on women a moral need to cover their bodies.

This makes the social and political aspects of the issue more salient in a country that takes pride in its laïcité or secularism – the separation of state from religious institutions.

The decision made Grenoble only the second French city to authorise burkini, after Rennes in 2018.

 

See also: A first for Germany - this summer, Göttingen allows topless swimmers in public pools

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