Despite a ruling by France’s highest administrative court last week that mayors do not have the right to ban burkinis on their town’s beaches, several mayors are enforcing the ban. Human rights organisations have pledged to take any mayor that attempts to keep the ban in place to court.
In a world where over 372,000 people drown every year, Nile Swimmers understands the importance of including women in the fight to stop drowning. For that to be the case, it is important that women all over the world feel comfortable learning how to swim and how to help someone else who is in trouble in the water.
The burkini is an important tool in making that possible. Burkinis were designed to give women the freedom to enjoy the water whilst protecting their modesty whether for reasons of religion, health or self-confidence. They are designed for swimming so they are significantly safer to swim in than an outfit of tracksuit bottoms, a long-sleeved t-shirt covered by a loose dress to the knees and a hood and scarf to cover a woman’s hair. I have seen, swum with and taught women wearing these kind of “swimsuits” in Sudan and other conservative cultures. Learning to swim and to help other wearing that kind of outfit is difficult because it’s not designed for it. You wouldn’t ask someone to learn to swim with a backpack full of stones so why would you ask them to learn to swim in clothes that get heavy when wet?
Women must be allowed to learn to swim and to help others and the burkini is one of the tools that allows them to feel comfortable as they learn these vital skills. Taking that tool away has not only been deemed illegal, it is also counterproductive and dangerous.