Statement by Sophie Walker on France's Burkini Bans

Statement by Sophie Walker on France's Burkini Bans

Sophie Walker expresses her concerns over the burkini ban to French government 

24th August 2016

“I have today spoken to a representative of the French government to convey my shock and disappointment at the decision by fifteen municipalities in that country to ban Muslim women from wearing burkinis - and the action taken earlier this week by armed police in Nice to force one woman to undress.

The sight of armed French policemen forcing a woman to strip off her clothes is no step towards equality. Rather, this aggressive enforcement of a ban on burkinis is driving France’s history of enlightenment into the darkness of racism and sexism.

In conversation with Jonathan Lacote, Deputy Head of Mission at the French Embassy in London today, I urged him to convey my concern to the authorities in Paris and expressed the view that such measures are entirely unacceptable.

WE urge the French government to work harder to understand and celebrate the diversity of the communities it serves, in order to establish the social harmony it wishes to achieve. And we hope that the country’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, will swiftly overturn in coming days the racist action taken by local authorities.

All around the world, women’s appearances are policed - whether it is the daily judgment of magazines deciding which celebrities should be ‘allowed’ to wear bikinis in public, or that of education authorities who tell schoolgirls their short skirts will distract their male classmates.

Policing how women choose to express their religious affiliation is part of that same spectrum and in choosing to crack down only on how Muslim women dress - rather than for example insisting that France’s Catholic nuns rethink their outfits - the French government has revealed a targeted approach that is doubly discriminatory.

The Women’s Equality Party is working hard with its thousands of members and supporters to give women the right to be seen as human beings and the free choice to decide what they wear. WE fully support the demonstrations taking place this week outside the French Embassy in London.”