Algerian Bikini Revolt One Year After Burkini Battle In France

Some 3,000 women gathered on the beach of Annaba to protest the mandatory wearing of burkinis — a reminder that women must choose for themselves and their bodies.

Women on the beach at Annaba, Algeria
Women on the beach at Annaba, Algeria
Karima Moual

ANNABA Could this summer go by without the inescapable brouhaha over burkinis and bikinis? Certainly not. Last year, it was France that was consumed by debate over the wearing of so-called burkinis by Muslim women to stay fully covered when swimming at the beach. This time, the news comes to us from Algeria, where in the seaside city of Annaba an army of 3,000 women agreed to meet on the beach all exclusively clad in bikinis. Over the course of several days small groups of women had been trying to join the demonstration here and there, but then, thanks to social media, the group grew much larger, enough so that it caught the attention of the press. What was the goal? To take on the pressure women face on Algerian beaches every time they decide to forego a burkini when taking a swim.

Photo: @zakostmane on Twitter

So the protesters proudly donned bathing suits at the beach, taking a stand against the moralizing fundamentalists who run around free of any intervention from the authorities. There are many of them now, and they seem prepared to do anything to make summer even more hellish for all those women who balk at the idea of swimming fully clothed. The presence of men on the beaches who intimidate and threaten Muslim bathers wearing swimsuits, telling them to cover up or leave, has become a serious issue in several North African countries.

On the beaches of Annaba in particular, the trend has been exacerbated by complaints posted on social media. One group even specialized in taking pictures of women on the beach in bikinis and using Facebook to report them to the authorities.

North African women are still very brave.

That Muslim societies have increasingly "Islamicized" social traditions is amply documented not only in photographs from the 1960s – the freedom captured in those shots is incomparable to that of today – but also by the emergence of an ever more aggressive brand of Islam from the Gulf region. That this particular type of Islam is heavily focused on policing women's bodies is apparent from the lack of attention that that numerous campaigns for the equal rights of women are receiving from various governments. Of course, North African women are still very brave and at the forefront of the Muslim world; there is ample evidence of this, not only in civil society but also in academic and political circles.

But back to us, and to why their battle should lead us to reflect more deeply. We should remember initiatives such as this one – taking to the beach in bikinis – when we defend traditions that are full of symbolism, such as the burkini. It's important to remember that behind the burkini, there is both a woman's freedom to choose what to wear, and a strong societal message about the need to control women, which doesn't promote real freedom. That's why today, we're more likely to find a woman in a bikini defending another's right to wear a burkini than the reverse. Whether they're men or women, the champions of the burkini are typically not at the frontlines defending a freedom that they choose not to embrace.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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