Debates Reignited as French City Allows Burkini in Swimming Pools

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With summer soon to come, local officials in the French city of Grenoble have approved on Monday a decision to allow women to wear ‘burkinis’ in state-run swimming pools.

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The decision, spearheaded by Grenoble’s mayor, Eric Piolle, was carried by the slimmest of margins with 29 votes for, 27 against and 2 abstentions after two-and-a-half hours of tense debates.

“All we want is for women and men to be able to dress how they want,” Piolle told broadcaster RMC , France 24 reported.

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The burkini is a swimming costume that covers the entire body, including the head, leaving only the face, hands and feet visible.

The change in Grenoble comes after protests in the city that began in 2018. In 2020 and 2021 a group of activists from the community grassroots association Alliance Citoyenne protested by wearing burkinis in Grenoble’s swimming pools. 

“I love the feeling of being in the water, but those protests were the first time I’ve been able to put my feet in a swimming pool in France,” Taous, a Muslim who lives in Grenoble and wears a hijab, told FRANCE 24.

Opponents to the decision include the influential conservative head of the wider Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region, Laurent Wauquiez, who has promised to withdraw funding from the city.

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