Several towns along France's southeastern coast have implemented the bans
Critics say the order is discriminatory and unconstitutional
A court in Nice suspended the city’s burkini ban, citing insufficient grounds to justify the controversial decree.
In the ruling Thursday, judges from Nice’s administrative tribunal court said the full-length swimsuit worn by some Muslim women did not pose a risk to public order on the French Riviera city’s beaches.
The case was brought by the Collective Against Islamophobia – a group of human rights activists who have been helping a number of women challenge fines. They argued that the ban is discriminatory, unconstitutional and that there has been no evidence to suggest that wearing a burkini has contributed to any acts of public disorder.
Over 30 towns – largely situated along France’s southeast coastline – initially imposed a ban on the divisive swimwear.
The arguments for and against
Authorities in Nice had counter-claimed that the request to the ban the swimwear – which covers the entire body apart from the face, hands and feet – should continue in the wake of the Bastille Day terror attack, in which at least 86 people were killed.
Officials said many people in Nice were deeply traumatized by the attack and that “wearing (an) outfit ostentatiously showing religious beliefs may be interpreted as affiliation with religious fundamentalism.”
Nice authorities added that the ban had been limited to the summer of 2016 in the aftermath of the horrific truck attack along the city’s popular Promenade des Anglais.
However, French judges dismissed these counter claims, ruling that: “In the absence of such risks, the emotion and concerns arising from terrorist attacks, including those committed in Nice on July 14, are not sufficient to legally justify the contested ban.”
The decision in Nice comes as other French courts determined that mayors in Villeneuve-Loubet and Cannes, among others, had no legal right to impose such dress codes. Bans in other cities also face challenges in court similar to Nice.
Meanwhile, cases in Menton and Roquebrune-Cap-Martin have now been dismissed, as the bans have been withdrawn by both municipalities.
What is the feeling in France?
In France, opinion has been largely divided on the issue. Some see the ban as an infringement on religious freedom, while others says that the overt style of Islamic dress is inconsistent with France’s rigorously enforced secularism.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stood by the bans, calling the burkini a “symbol of the enslavement of women.” And Marc Etienne Lansade, mayor of the seaside town of Cogolin, defended his town’s position, telling CNN: “If you don’t want to live the way we do, don’t come.
“You have to behave in the way that people behave in the country that accepted you, and that is it.”
Fierce debate around the subject was reignited last week after photographs emerged appearing to show French police ordering a woman to remove part of her clothing on a beach in Nice.
The series of images sparked an international debate on social platforms, with many mocking what they saw as France’s attempt to tell people how to dress and behave.
CNN’s Sheena McKenzie and journalists Angela Dewan and Sandrine Amiel contributed to this report.