The two rulings handed down by the lower court in Ghent against banning the burkini in swimming pools are a first and thus constitute a precedent, the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities, UNIA, stressed on Friday. The court ruled that wearing the long swimming garment could not be banned for reasons of hygiene or security. The municipal swimming pools of Ter Wallen and Van Eyck in Ghent cannot prevent Muslim women from wearing the burkini, according to the Court, which found that the ban had no legal basis. Establishments must adapt their regulations in that sense, the Court decided, granting moral damages to the women who filed the complaint against the ban.
“The rulings are coherent with the legal analysis we conducted last year at the request of certain cities and communes,” commented UNIA’s Els Keytsman.
UNIA had concluded that a general ban would be a clear form of discrimination and that it could place Muslim women who wear it for religious reasons at a disadvantage as well as people who opt to wear it for reasons of health or physical characteristics or because of a handicap.
“People must be free to dress as they wish, even in a swimming pool,” Ms Keytsman said. If pressure is put on young women to wear the burkini, it’s up to the local authorities to act, she argued.