The so-called burkini has sparked a long debate in France about dress codes in swimming pools. Now the city of Grenoble has abolished these regulations – and thus also allowed the burkini.

The city council of Grenoble, France, voted in a narrow vote to largely abolish the dress code for women in the city’s swimming pools. After a two-and-a-half-hour debate, 29 MPs voted in favor of the Green Mayor Eric Piolle’s proposal on Monday, 27 voted against, and two abstained. In the future, both topless bathing and the full-body swimsuit commonly worn by Muslim women, known as the burkini, will be permitted.

Body suit burkini sparked heated discussions

The initiative had caused a nationwide sensation in France. “We want public offerings to be accessible to everyone, we want everyone to be able to bathe ‘topless’, both women and men, and that everyone can bathe covered, women and men,” Mayor Piolle said in justification.

While the topless proposal went largely unnoticed, the burkini in particular caused a stir: This project contradicts Republican values, said Prisca Thévenot, a spokeswoman for the ruling party LREM. “Whoever enters a swimming pool has to follow the rules.” One of France’s most important rules is “secularism and equality before the law,” she added.

Conservative politicians see break with “values ​​of our republic”

Conservative politicians accused Piolle of a “break with laicism and the values ​​of our republic”. The prefect of the Isère department announced that he would appeal to the administrative court in Grenoble to block the measure, on the instructions of Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

In the council debate, Piolle rejected these objections. On the contrary, his initiative is to be seen as a sign of commitment to secularism: because there is no ban on wearing religious clothing in public spaces, “not even in the swimming pool”.

The word burkini is a combination of bikini and burqa – the full-body veil for women demanded by Islamists. The topic is discussed almost every summer in France.