On the global (European) as well as international scale, the recent burkini ban introduced in France spurred great controversy, especially amongst those debating the extent to which the French legal system should regulate the national dress code.
Conceived by Australian-Lebanese fashion designer Aheda Zanetti, the burkini is a type of swimsuit which distinguishes itself from others thanks to its unique design. Covering the entire body except hands, feet, and face, it has been adopted by a wide array of Muslim women since its introduction, in the early 2000s; however, this August, a radical burkini ban was passed in 30 French municipalities, including the towns of Nice and Cannes.
This regulation was met with very diverse and contradictory responses. A majority of the law’s endorsers claim that wearing the burkini poses a public, as well as private, threat to security, one of the chief concerns of the French legal body, especially in such times of national turbulence. Not only are the bodies covered by this type of wet suit, making it potentially more difficult to identify its wearer, but they add that the small skirt could facilitate drowning. Conversly, critics argue that such a ban interferes in one’s personal freedom.
In Poland, for example, there is no enforcement of a regulation encompassing the dress code for men or women. According to the Polish Constitution: „the freedom to publicly express religion may be limited only by means of statute and only where this is necessary for the defence of State security, public order, health, morals or the freedoms and rights of others” (Chapter II, Article 53). This translates to the right for any member of any religion to be fundamentally allowed to follow his or her own dress code, so long as it does not present any menace for their surroundings. From the hijab, to the burqa, to the burkini, no serious conflict has ever emanated from these apparels. Poland’s still widely homogeneous society may play an important role in nationals’ calm when it comes to discussing such matters—over 90% of Polish inhabitants are Polish; moreover, according to the Pew Research Center, members of the Roman Catholic Church constitute more than 92% of Poland’s population. On the other hand, the multiple of religious and national minorities housed under France’s roof contribute to creating such social tensions.
More so than ever before, the latest events and debates within the French nation depict the diversity of its people’s views on the limits of personal liberty. Personally, I promote the freedom of being able to dress in conformity with one’s own convictions, so long as that choice does not affect the well-being of others.
by Hanna w.