The XX Factor

Burkini Ban Debate Intensifies With Viral Photos of French Police Ordering Woman to Remove Clothes

The beachfront in Nice, France, on Aug. 7, 2016. 

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The photos show a woman in black leggings, a blue tunic, and blue head scarf lying on a beach in Nice, France. Then, four police officers approach. They stand over her, hands on hips, as she removes her tunic.

The Guardian reports that the photos were taken on Tuesday. While the woman in the photo was not identified, and there is no official account of what the police said to her or if she was fined, the images fanned the raging debate over the burkini bans that have been implemented by some French towns.

Municipal bans on burkinis—swimsuits with built-in sleeves, leggings, and a hood—are spreading in France, as Slate’s Nora Caplan-Bricker wrote last week. She wrote that the bans are a symptom of growing Islamophobia in the country following terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice, and that “women’s bodies, and their beachwear, are the prime targets.” But in the wake of the bans, even Muslim women not wearing burkinis have been punished for being on beaches in long pants and sleeves.

In addition to the photos of the woman being confronted by police in Nice, the Guardian covered another instance of a woman who was punished for wearing leggings, a tunic, and a headscarf on a French beach. This woman, who was in Cannes, was fined. According to the Guardian,

Her ticket, seen by French news agency AFP, read that she was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism”.

“I was sitting on a beach with my family,” said the 34-year-old who gave only her first name, Siam. “I was wearing a classic headscarf. I had no intention of swimming.”

A witness to the scene, Mathilde Cousin, confirmed the incident. “The saddest thing was that people were shouting ‘go home’, some were applauding the police,” she said. “Her daughter was crying.”

The rising tensions over burkini bans has spurred France’s national government to intervene. French news agency AFP reported Wednesday that Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve will meet with the head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith “to discuss the burkini bans at the centre of a bitter row over Muslim integration.” According to AFP, the council released a statement from its president Anouar Kbibech, saying that the organization “is concerned over the direction the public debate is taking,” citing the “growing fear of stigmatisation of Muslims in France.”