A village in Corsica became the third place in France to ban the Burqini from its beaches Monday after a fight broke out over the weekend over the swimsuit favored by some Muslim women, Agence-France Presse reports.
Sisco’s Burqini ban, which goes into effect Tuesday, follows those imposed in the French resorts of Cannes, where the ban was upheld by a court Saturday, and Villaneuve-Loubet, which banned the costume, prompting a nationwide debate over the role of conservative Muslim dress in secular France.
Banning the Burqini seems like a clear case of religious discrimination to me, but feel free to offer opposing views in the comments. For the purposes of this blog, I was curious as to whether there were any trade or investment law issues. As it turns out, the Burqini was invented by an Australian Muslim woman named Aheda Zanetti:
In the early 2000s, Australia’s cultural melting pot was set to boil over. Racial tensions spiked after a series of gang rapes perpetrated by Lebanese Muslim youths targeting non-Muslim teen girls; it got worse after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., then hit a low point in December 2005, when race riots erupted in response to reports that a group of Middle Eastern men had beaten up white lifeguards at South Sydney’s Cronulla beach, popular with both the Muslim community and white, working-class Australians.
In the aftermath of the Cronulla riots, the government sought to bridge the divide, banding together with Surf Life Saving Australia to recruit Muslim surf life-savers through the “On the Same Wave” campaign.
To get Muslim women on board, Surf Life Saving Australia approached Zanetti, who lives in Sydney’s western suburbs with her Greek-Muslim husband and has four children aged 13 to 27. Before she became a clothing designer she was a hairdresser, though sewing and designing her own clothes had been a hobby since the age of 12.
Before the burkini, Zanetti invented the hijood, an amalgamation of a hijab veil and a hood, made of breathable material suitable for land-based sports. She came up with the design after watching her niece struggling during a game of netball, a popular sport in Australia similar to basketball, while wearing her team’s uniform over her Islamic garb. After failing to find a sports-friendly hijab on the market, Zanetti decided to make one herself.
The genesis of the burkini is similar — Zanetti read an article about Muslim women swimming in their billowing burqas, and decided to create an outfit they could wear without restricting their movement in the water.
More here. Zanetti set up a company called Ahiida, and the name Burqini (also Burkini) is trademarked; I think there are other companies making similar products, though.
My question is, if places in Europe (or elsewhere) ban these products, are there possible trade or investment complaints for someone to file?
Ahiida is an Australian company and Burqinis are produced there. Perhaps Australia might decide to raise the issue at the WTO? GATT Article III:4 is probably the most likely basis of a complaint.
And if by some chance Ahiida or another producer has any investment (maybe a retail shop?) in Europe, and there's an investment treaty that could be relied on, then there may also be a pretty good claim that the treatment being offered here is not fair or equitable.