French court imposes burkini ban despite State Council declaring it illegal

The French island of Corsica has upheld the burkini ban issued by a local mayor despite a higher court squashing it in Paris last month.

A judge in the town of Bastia upheld the decision to ban the burkini from beaches in the Corsican resort town of Sisco because he believes it disrupted public order.

The State Council – France’s supreme administrative court – last month ruled burkini bans illegally violated the basic freedoms of women to wear what they choose to, and could only be enforced unless there was a “proven risk of disruptions to public order.”

The judge in Bastia cited an incident on 13 August in Sisco where a clash broke out after allegedly intrusive photographs were taken of women wearing the headline-making swimwear.

Witnesses say the brawl involved harpoons and hatchets and resulted in three cars being set alight.

The Judge said this event shows that “the presence of a woman wearing a swimsuit covered by the ban of 16 August in certain circumstances can generate an averse risk to public order which is up to the mayor to prevent.”

He said it was clear “emotion had not declined” since the incident.

Mayor Vivoni of Corsica
Mayor Vivoni of Corsica

Mayor of Corsica, Mr Vivoni, told Agence France Presse he thought the ruling was a “relief for me and my fellow residents and even, I believe, for the whole of Corsica.”

He insisted he was “not against anyone” and “everyone could live in Sisco” but there was a “risk of people dying” if the ban was not in place.

But the move has provoked fresh anger amid accusations politicians are “stoking this obsession” in Corsica.

Some on Twitter, like campaigner, Morgane Merteuil, suggest the ruling is the beginning of French apartheid.

The political controversy over burkinis began on August 12 when the Mayor of Cannes announced the first ban. The council said the move was to prohibit “beachwear ostentatiously showing a religious affiliation while France and places of religious significance are the targets of terror attacks”.

Since then many French resort towns also issued bans, but on August 26 the State Council, France’s highest administrative court, ruled the ban was illegal.  The ruling was welcomed by internationally by the White House and UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon who said there was a need “ for people’s dignity to be respected”.

However, some of the 30 French municipalities where the ban was implemented are challenging the State Council’s decision.

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