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After Burkini Bans, France Moves to Open Nudist Park in Paris

Burkinis might be a threat to public order, but nudist camps? Those are just fine.

ILE DU LEVANT, FRANCE:  A couple of nudists stroll 21 June 2004 on a path leading to a beach on the Levant island, off the southern French port of Toulon. Back in the 1930s, early pioneering nudists settled on the remote and wildly beautiful Ile-du-Levant. Today mod-cons such as electricity have come to the Mediterranean isle but to save the environment, there are still no street-lights at night. AFP PHOTO BORIS HORVAT  (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images)
ILE DU LEVANT, FRANCE: A couple of nudists stroll 21 June 2004 on a path leading to a beach on the Levant island, off the southern French port of Toulon. Back in the 1930s, early pioneering nudists settled on the remote and wildly beautiful Ile-du-Levant. Today mod-cons such as electricity have come to the Mediterranean isle but to save the environment, there are still no street-lights at night. AFP PHOTO BORIS HORVAT (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images)

This summer, France sparked international outrage after dozens of cities and towns banned women from wearing burkinis — full-body swimsuits favored by some Muslims — in public swimming pools and beaches.

But going totally nude in the capital of Paris? Well, soon there will be no problem with that at all.

By as early as next summer, nudists may be able to enjoy a special designated area of Paris where they can let it all hang out, now that city councillors have approved pending plans for the experimental area.

Councilman David Belliard said that there are two million nudists in France, and that count doubles during summer months when tourism booms.

“For them Paris is the world’s premier tourist destination and there’s no public place for them to go,” he said. “We want to try out a recreational area where nudists can freely strip off.”

France’s Muslim population is about 5 million, or more than twice as large as the country’s naturist hordes, at least in the offseason.

And Parisian Deputy Mayor Bruno Julliard has said that both he and Mayor Anne Hidalgo support the plan so long as it takes place somewhere just outside of the urban center, “near a lake [or] in a regulated setting so that there is no threat to public order.”

His choice of wording is ironic, considering that burkinis worn in similar settings — at beaches, lakes, or pools — were labeled as serious threats to public disorder this summer, particularly in the aftermath of an Islamic State attack on a Bastille Day celebration in the seaside city of Nice on July 14.

But Belliard, a Green Party member, insists he wants nothing to do with the debate over the burkini.

“People can dress how they want to and thus choose to not get dressed at all,” he said this week.

Photo credit: BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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