The first in a series of three photos that emerged on social media on Tuesday shows a woman dressed in black leggings and a blue tunic, lying on a towel on the beach in Nice, France. She seems unaware that four armed men in police uniforms are inching toward her from both sides. The next two photos show her removing her tunic to expose her bare arms, while one of the police officers kneels down with a pad of paper, appearing to write her a ticket.
The photographed interaction is the latest incident that has drawn attention to French government officials’ criticism of women’s full-body swimwear, which has resulted in bans on swimsuits known as “burkinis” in a number of seaside towns in France. According to Rudy Salles, the deputy mayor of Nice who spoke to the BBC about the photographs on Wednesday, women who cover themselves up at the beach pose a security threat to other beachgoers. Critics of the anti-burkini laws argue that such prohibitions are essentially forcing women to strip down in public places, violating their freedom to decide how they dress.
But Salles said the burkini ban is intended to liberate women from Islamist ideas.
“It is not the habit and the custom of the Muslims in Nice to wear [clothes] like this on the beach,” he said, adding that he could not imagine any woman wanting to cover herself up in such hot weather. He also said that after the Islamic State truck attack in Nice on July 14, which killed more than 80 civilians, officials in the scenic tourist town must take increased precautions.
Somewhat unexpectedly, the one person benefiting from all the fuss France has worked up about the burkini is its inventor, 48-year-old Australian Aheda Zanetti.
According to her, profits from the burkini — which is not much more than a wet suit with a hood — have skyrocketed in recent weeks, and profits are up by 200 percent.
Zanetti, a self-described “Aussie chick,” said she invented the swimsuit to give women more choice as to what they wear on the beach. “I don’t care if they want to have a bikini, it’s their choice,” she said about her own daughters. “No man in this entire world can tell us what to wear or what not to wear.”
Well, elected officials in France seem to think she’s got that last bit wrong.
The mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, signed a decree banning the burkini at least through the end of August. And anyone who violates it will have to dish out a fine of roughly $43.
“Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order,” he said in his ruling this month.
Photo credit: MATT KING/Getty Images