A series of photos showing French police enforcing a ban on Muslim women’s swimsuit, known as burkini, have stirred public anger in France, with some activists calling the move shameful.
“I am so ashamed,” wrote French feminist, Caroline De Haas, after images surfaced in the media on Wednesday, showing a woman dressed in leggings, a tunic and headscarf lying on a beach and surrounded by four police officers.
The photos, published by British media, were reportedly captured in the southern city of Nice, one of about 15 French towns which have banned the wearing of the burkini, a full-body Islamic swimsuit which covers the head, on beaches.
The woman in the photo removes her tunic at one point while a policeman appears to write out a fine.
The images caused a furor in the social media, where many interpreted them as the woman being forced to undress by police.
Sihame Assbague, the activist whose comment on the photos and the ban was re-tweeted more than 7,000 times, said the scene had made France “the laughing stock of the world.”
On his post on Twitter, Andrew Stroehlein, European Media Director of Human Rights Watch, slammed the enforcing of the ban in such a away, asking, “How many armed policemen does it take to force a woman to strip in public?”
Authorities have declared that the ban on the burkini has been introduced as the swimsuit contravenes French secular values and threatens public order. However, activists and campaigners have harshly criticized the ban, saying it clearly restricts personal freedom.
The French Human Rights League (LDH) has filed a complaint with the State Council, France’s highest administrative court, urging the ban to be scrapped.
A report on Tuesday said a 34-year-old woman was fined on the beach in the resort of Cannes only for wearing a normal headscarf.
“I was sitting on a beach with my family. I was wearing a classic headscarf. I had no intention of swimming,” said the mother of the two who was only identified by her first name, Siam.
The controversial ban on the burkini, which has been imposed by French mayors, has its own supporters in the French judicial system.
Lower courts like the tribunal in the Riviera city of Nice said Wednesday that the burkini could “be felt as a defiance or a provocation exacerbating tensions felt by” the community, after a terror attack in the area in July in which dozens were mowed down by a truck.