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burkini-blur.jpgI’m not the first voice to decry the French Burkini ban. I guess it’s something about a photo showing two armed policemen standing over a woman, forcing her to strip in public that just repulses people.

Fundamentally, I understand the ethos behind French secularism. It’s meant to promote equality, neutrality, communality. But it works against its own purpose when it’s singling out Muslim women.

I know that this isn’t what the French ban is about, but many people’s objection to the burqua (which, by the way is the full-face veil, not the headscarf or niquab) is that it oppresses women. Certainly, it oppresses women to be told what to wear. But how is it better when the state – including armed policemen – enforce this rather than a religious authority?

As usual, it is women who suffer. On whose bodies the political anxieties of the time play out.

It is immensely sad that in 2016 we are still policing what women wear. Of course, there are women who are compelled to cover. But there are many who cover of their own choice. To strip them, publicly, is an act of unforgivable and inhuman violence and humiliation for which there is no excuse.

I was pleased to hear that the burkini ban is being called off. It’s interesting that such things have meaning only when women wear them. My father used to have a rather fetching wetsuit that covered his head in quite the same manner as the burkini. As a white man, no one had any questions about this. But we always care what women wear.

It’s time that changed.

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