Woman Made To Remove Clothes By Police On French Beach

A woman relaxing on a beach in Nice, France, was made to remove some of her clothes by armed police, who were enforcing a ban on a style of religious clothing called the “burkini.” A photograph of the confrontation, which occurred on Tuesday, has been released, which appears to show the woman complying with the request to remove some of her clothes after being made to by the police.

The burkini, which consists of religious clothes that cover the head and body, has been banned by authorities in a number of French towns. Outlawing the clothes has resulted in the woman being made to remove them, and is a result of terrorism concerns in France due to the country having been targeted by religious extremists in the past year.

The photographs of Tuesday’s incident, in which a woman was made to remove her clothes, depicts no less than four French police officers, armed with guns, batons, and pepper spray, standing over a woman clad in a burkini who is relaxing on a beach at the Promenade des Anglais, which was where July’s Bastille Day terrorist attack occurred. Eighty-six people were killed in the attack by a man who drove a truck into a crowd that had gathered to celebrate the July 14 holiday.

After the police confront the woman, clad in clothes including a blue tunic and a matching headscarf, it appears as though one officer is issuing a citation or taking notes of some sort. The woman, after having presumably been made to remove her clothes by the police, removes her long-sleeved tunic.

Nice implemented the ban on the burkini last week. As with other resort towns that have banned the religious clothes to the point that some women are being made to remove them, the ban applies to clothing that “overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks” and gives police the right to make a woman remove her religious clothes in public. In addition to the Bastille Day attack, the ban issued by Nice authorities also references the murder of a Catholic priest near Rouen that happened 12 days after the truck attack.

This is not the first instance in which a woman was approached on a French beach for her clothes. The Guardian reports that a woman in Cannes had been wearing a headscarf, leggings, and tunic on the beach, and, although she was not made to remove her clothes, she was fined by police because her clothes did not abide by “good morals and secularism.” The 34-year-old woman said she had been “wearing a classic headscarf” and that she did not plan to swim that day.

The woman’s account was confirmed by a witness who spoke to The Guardian.

“The saddest thing was that people were shouting ‘go home,’ [and] some were applauding the police. Her daughter was crying.”

The Independent reports that a video showing police officers in Nice patrolling the beach while allegedly waiting for two girls to emerge from the water was posted to Twitter on Monday. It is unknown whether the girls were made to remove their religious clothes.

The ban on religious clothes has been appealed by the French NGO, Human Rights League (LDH). France’s State Council will hear the appeal on Thursday. LDH seeks to overturn a decision by a Nice tribunal that upheld the ban on religious clothes by the French town, Villeneuve-Loubet. The Independent quotes LDH as calling the ban on burkinis, which caused French police to make a woman remove her religious clothes on a public beach, a “serious and illegal attack on numerous fundamental rights,” citing freedom of religion as one of those rights.

In their ruling on Monday, the Nice court said the ban on religious clothes in Villeneuve-Loubet was a “necessary” and “appropriate” measure for keeping the peace after the recent terrorist attacks in France. The court also ruled that the clothes themselves could “offend the religious convictions or non-convictions of other users of the beach,” and that women wearing the religious clothes could be seen as a “provocation,” so much so that police have been given the right to make women remove these religious clothes in public.

Fifteen towns have banned religious clothes, with Villeneuve-Loubet the first to do so. The ban on the burkini has triggered nationwide debates regarding women’s rights, religious clothing, and secularism. The ruling of the State Council will likely set a precedent to be followed by other towns across the country, which must decide whether making a woman remove her clothes, worn because of her religious convictions, is fair when it is done in order to avoid offending the religious convictions of others.

[Photo by Chris Carlson/AP Images]

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