Women-only swim making waves in Marseille

A women’s association in the city of Marseille has triggered irate reactions in secular France with its plans to rent a swimming park for a day, which will be only for women and who must be covered up chest to knees.
Women-only swim making waves in Marseille

Michel Amiel, mayor of Pennes-Mirabeau — where the swimming park is located — said yesterday on BFM TV he intends to ban the event on grounds it could “trouble public order”.

Amiel said he was “shocked and angry” after learning of the event. “This is communitarianism, pure and simple,” he told Le Parisien.

Conservative lawmaker Valerie Boyer, mayor of two Marseille districts, also condemned the plan.

The association Smile 13, a “socio-cultural, sports and aid association” says on its Facebook page the September 10 swim day at the park north of Marseille, which has a large Muslim population, is reserved for women, girls, and boys under 10.

A poster for the event asks guests not to come in bikinis.

“We’re counting on you to respect the Awra (Islamic term requiring parts of the human body to be covered) and not come in a two-piece (chest to knees must be covered). The minimum is a one-piece swimming costume with pareo [wraparound skirt] or shorts,” it reads.

Mélisa Thivet, Smile 13 treasurer, said she was taken by surprise by the outragethe event had provoked.

“I don’t see what we’re being made to feel guilty about when we are just practising our religion. We’re in a secular country and everyone should be able to practise their belief as they see fit.” However, Valérie Boyer, a local MP of Les Republicains, the centre-right opposition party, said the event would stir trouble.

“It is not an anodyne issue. The battle of the ‘veil’ is a visible sign of fundamentalists wanting to mark their territory and subjugate women,” Boyer said in a statement.

“Burka, chador, abaya, niqab, hijab … it doesn’t matter what you call them, they are a gender prison, a negation of the individual, an obstacle to equality, an obstacle to fraternity.”

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