Fines for women ‘burkini’ protesters at French swimming pool

French authorities have fined a group of five women for wearing “burkini” full-body bathing suits at a public swimming pool in protest against anti-Muslim discrimination.

olice say the women entered the Jean Bron complex, which is run by Grenoble city authorities, with some wearing the full-body covering, causing management to evacuate the pool. The women are part of Citizen Alliance, an anti-Islamophobia movement that opposes Grenoble’s ban on burkinis.

Burkinis are banned from many pools in France on grounds of safety and hygiene. The majority also forbid loose swimming shorts for men and expect all swimmers to wear skin-hugging suits and hair caps.

The group posted a video of one woman getting into the pool with a comment saying they “disobeyed the discriminatory regulation by bathing with the swimsuit of their choice”. “We are demanding the right to choose our swimsuit, whether covering, with long sleeves, short sleeves or even topless,” the group said.

They continued their protest outside the pool, with 30 women blocking the entrance for around two hours.

Annabelle Bretton, the deputy mayor of Grenoble, said the demonstrators were removed from the site “calmly and without violence”. The women who participated were also banned from entering public pools for two months.

Last year, the French interior ministry ended all subsidies to Citizen Alliance, saying its actions were “militant”, and disqualified the group from receiving public money.

Burkinis have been a controversial issue in France since the 2017 national election, when Right-wing parties called for a blanket ban on the garments and campaigned against the hijab being worn in public places.

This week’s demonstration follows a protest in June 2019, when women from the same group were ejected from the same pool. Then, Florian Philippot, a far-Right MEP, said: “We must react firmly to this Islamist coup.”

The events at the pool follow a precedent-setting decision last week by the European Court of Justice which said two employers in Germany had the right to fire public-facing staff who refused to remove their headscarves.

An umbrella organisation, the EU Muslim Network, said the incidents increased divisions across the continent.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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