Belgium: municipalities divided over the burkini in public swimming pools

Access to the comments Comments
By Louise Miner
Belgium: municipalities divided over the burkini in public swimming pools

Bikini or a Burkini? With holidays approaching the debate divides opinions. A Ghent tribunal in Belgium took a position ruling that in public swimming pools of the city and in Merelbeke, women should be allowed to wear the full body swimming suit as it doesn’t have any hygiene problems. The city Council decided to appeal against this ruling saying that it doesn’t go far enough

Resul Tapmaz is from Ghent Municipality for Welfare, Equal Opportunities, Health and Sport and he says, "We will appeal this ruling because we think that the motivation of the judge is not complete enough. We want a broader ruling so that everyone can wear what he or she wants, like a transgender, or people that have surgery scars, or other issues in order that everybody can swim in public pools".

But not everybody shares the same view. Some local swimmers think they've adapted to other cultures enough already. "For me this is not right. They (Muslims) have to adapt to our culture, we have already done many things for them such as removing the cross signs from schools and the photos of the king in the schools and what’s next? We won’t have rights anymore in our own country".

The inter federal centre (UNIA) for equal opportunities confirms Ghent's decision and will remove obstacles for Muslim women, who simply want to enjoy swimming like everyone else.

Els Keytman, Director of UNIA says, "Of course this ruling is very specific for the situation in two municipalities but it is a precedent and it is possible that other women of other municipalities who want to wear a full body swimming suit will go to court as well".

Back to the streets of Brussels Euronews snooped around to find shops selling burkinis. The designs we found are made of the same material as normal swimming suits. But this shop keeper says there's not a big market for them, "This is the first time I have them, that customers ask for them. I brought 5 or 6 piece but it's not great, it doesn't sell so well.

Ghent's decision is the first of its kind in Belgium. Meanwhile, 80% of Flemish municipalities ban the burkini in public swimming pools.