Global youth speak up on burkini ban

Editor's note: This piece was written by Camilla Curnis, 23, from Italy, with quotes from Global Young Voices members of diverse backgrounds and nationalities, to express their opinion on the seemingly unfair ban.

Last week, a picture of a French policeman confronting a Muslim woman on the beaches of the French Riviera started circulating on the web and covered many front pages the next morning. The controversy arose after the woman was given a ticket for wearing a burkini on the beach in Cannes. According to over 30 French Riviera mayors who decided to ban the burkini, this dress code does not respect good customs and secularism. The initiative was subsequently endorsed by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

A few days later, the controversy seemed to be put to rest, with the state council declaring that such ban “seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms.” As of now though, the debate seems far from over. In fact, over 20 communes of the French Riviera, including Nice, refused to withdraw the ban. Further, former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is running for the 2017 presidential election, seemed to be riding the wave of the burkini ban to gather extra votes. In case re-elected, he promised to change the French constitution to make the burkini ban legal.

Woman being undressed by police in public in Cannes, which started off the debate. Credit: The Independent

Woman being undressed by police in public in Cannes, which started off the debate. Credit: The Independent

Many media outlets have spoken broadly on the topic, interviewing religious and political pundits, Muslim and Christian leaders, but few have asked for what the youth thinks. And at the end of the day, it is the youth that will live the longest with the changed constitution that Sarkozy is planning to have. We will be impacted the most, and for this, we deserve a say.

So we decided to bring the opinion of the global youth to the table, with writers from different countries represented within Global Young Voices expressing their opinion on a ban that marks the criminalization of clothing.

I think France’s ban on the burkini is ridiculous. A woman has the right to wear just as much or little clothes on the beach as she wants. Whether she wants to enjoy the sun and sea in a fully-covering burkini or in a revealing bikini, she should be able to do so without any condemnation. No government, authority, man or other person should have a say in what a woman wears to the beach, I think it’s a straight violation of women’s rights.
— Jasmine Kukko, 25, Finland
In the last century, we’ve overcome so many different illogical and biased attempts to disturb that progress and understanding, and this is just another one of them. We need to celebrate differences rather than get insecure by them. Although some may argue that cultural differences in attire may seem to muddle one’s native cultural settings, they must realize that inhibiting one’s freedom of religion is only going to incite more hatred.
— Rohan Maheshwari, 24, India
Wearing a burkini or any type of swimsuit should be nothing more than a personal choice. I cannot understand the desperation French mayors are expressing by banning certain clothes to the beach. What bothers me the most is that when police approached the woman in a burkini on the Cannes beach, no one said anything. I hope the officers felt embarrassed when asking the women to ‘please take off her clothes.’
— Ilse Wijnen, 23, the Netherlands
I strongly believe that everyone, no matter their gender, color or religion, has the right to wear whatever they want on the beach. To me, what happened in the French Riviera was a simple act of not only religion but also sex discrimination. It was a breach of two of our most valuable human rights.
— Denislav Atanasov, 27, Bulgaria
The burkini ban is a violation of the fundamental freedom of belief. It is political propaganda at the expense of people’s rights and freedoms. Rather than securing public safety, the ban is actually promoting more separation and guaranteeing public humiliation.
— Renee Castro, 23, El Salvador
I wish the ban on the burkini were only about the burkini. Sadly, it is much deeper than that. It is an outrage to human rights, to freedom, to will, to the most sacred aspects of humanity. I firmly believe that everyone is totally free to do whatever they want as long as those actions do not affect, threat or hurt others.
— Santiago Piñan, 28, Mexico
As a young woman who loves swimming, I wear burkinis to both pools and beaches. I think it is liberating and empowering to be able to enjoy swimming without having to endure strangers looking at my body and worry about being ‘bikini fit.’ The ban on burkini is senseless and enraging. Forcing a woman to undress is shameful under any circumstance, more so if done in public, and for no reason other than the fact that they don’t like her clothes.
— Noha Elmessiri, 24, Egypt
It would have been nice to say that we are past imposing our views on the behavior of women, but this is once again a matter of society telling women what to wear. People have been increasing explosively, and it is about time we get comfortable with the idea of encountering people who have different beliefs and faiths from our own, no matter how hard we try to avoid them.
— Kushan Costa, 24, Sri Lanka
It’s a sad thing to open the newspaper and read the headline, ‘French Police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach.’ No woman should have her fundamental freedoms, such as the freedoms of movement and belief, infringed upon as they have been.
— Guinevere Santaguida, 16, Canada
I find the idea that a government would tell any woman to take of any part of clothing that she is comfortable with disturbing. As a young European, I have learned that personal freedom should be respected as long as it does not hurt others. How is wearing the burkini in any way a threat to others, let alone to democracy? How does it touch their liberties? And why are we, in the 21st century, still trying to tell women what to wear and even worse what to take off?
— Lina Ludwig, 24, Germany
The burkini ban, as absurd as it is, was sadly not a surprising news to say the least. Women have long been fighting oppression from their male counterparts. Although we finally have influential female leaders across the world, women are still treated as second class citizens in most of the countries. Mankind have come a long way with the help of advance scientific development, yet we are in war with one another over religion.
— Urusha Lama, 23, Nepal
As a young Muslim woman, this makes me sick to my stomach. To me, the burkini is a sportswear, a fashion statement and a source of empowerment for women who choose to be modest. But unfortunately, we live in a world where some women are happily paid to be naked while others are humiliated and have to pay fines for deciding to cover themselves.
— Zuwaina Al Daraai, 20, Oman

As a young Italian and a devoted European, I can comfortably say that the burkini ban is a disappointment. The reason why is fairly simple: "The European Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality." In order, how are we respecting human dignity when forcing a woman to take her clothes off in public? How are we providing liberty when making a woman comply to our own concept of bathing suit? How are we ensuring democracy when we are not allowing a minority within our country to profess their religion? And how are we providing equality by condemning women, a gender minority within a religious minority in Europe?

Having laid out how this ban goes against the founding values of the European Union, the reason why politicians implement it must be of utmost worthiness. And what could be more important to politicians than increasing their chances to win the upcoming elections? It is not by chance that in France, the country that formulated the ban, elections will be held as early as 2017. So have our politics fallen as low as riding the wave of propaganda and populism to gather extra votes? Where have our farsighted and noble values gone?

\n","url":"","width":854,"height":480,"providerName":"YouTube","thumbnailUrl":"","resolvedBy":"youtube"}" data-block-type="32" id="block-yui_3_17_2_1_1472495509362_26205">

Cover credit: Regis Duvignau/Reuters


Camilla Curnis

MSc. in Engineering Management at Politecnico di Milano Recent Graduate in BSc. Engineering Management at the University of Bergamo, Member of National Society of Collegiate Scholars, former Contributor for The Equinox, IEEE First Place Award Winner North Jersey Section, Guest Speaker at the United Nations Pathways. "To me, writing is synonym of exploring. You start from nothing and you learn as you go."