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Grenoble allows women to wear burkinis in public pools despite political opposition

The French city of Grenoble has officially allowed Muslim women to wear burkinis, or full-body swimsuits, in public swimming pools.

City council members narrowly approved the new rules at a meeting on Monday despite political opposition.

After a tense debate, there were 29 votes in favor of the measure, 27 councilors voting against and 2 abstentions.

The French Interior Ministry said it would block the move, which contradicts French laws on secularism and “public service neutrality”.

But the mayor of Grenoble, Eric Piolle, has repeatedly claimed that the debate over burkinis is “not a subject”.

Piolle said the change to swimming pool regulations – introduced before the pools opened in mid-June – aims to “remove aberrant clothing bans” and tackle “injunctions on women’s bodies”.

From June 1, Grenoble will relax its rules and allow women and men to swim topless or wear full bathing suits to protect themselves from the sun or religious beliefs.

“Wear what you want”

The move was backed by women’s rights activists in France, who campaigned for people to “wear whatever they want” in swimming pools.

But MPs from President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling En Marche party have argued that Islamic veils go against France’s strict secular “values”.

Opponents also argue that the burkini is a symbol of women’s oppression, similar to the full veil worn in some Muslim-majority countries.

The right-wing president of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes has threatened on Twitter withdraw all regional funding to the city over the new rules.

The prefect of the Isère region announced on Sunday that he would refer the decision of the council to the administrative court of Grenoble.

“I can’t wait for the government to explain to us why we should hide all our religious signs in a swimming pool,” Piollo said in response to franceinfo on Monday.

The mayor of Grenoble cited another French city, Rennes, which passed a similar measure endorsing burkinis in 2018.

Two years earlier, it is estimated 30 French seaside resorts ban women from wearing burkinis on the beaches.

France’s highest administrative court later ruled that the anti-burkini decrees were “a serious and manifestly illegal violation of fundamental freedoms”.

In Grenoble, the NGO Alliance Citoyenne has has staged several recent stunts at city pools to support the new rules.

The group has also campaigned against the French Football Federation, which bans the wearing of the Islamic hijab during competitions.

euronews Gt

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