Burka or Bikini, Niqab or Naked, female freedom or oppression?

After dozens of French councils banned abaya swimwear or ‘burkinis‘ on the beach, some being fined for it, the courts overturned the bans but some of the councils said they would continue to ban burkas on the beach in the name of freedom and security. An Italian town mayor banned women in bikinis unless they were beautiful enough to wear them! Meanwhile, Glasgow, lacking a beach, decided to issue an appropriate dress code to councillors in the wake of the killing of MP Jo Cox to ensure their fashion sense didn’t “give rise to misunderstanding”.

nudity v modesty v empowerment
nudity v modesty, female empowerment?

Whether women cover up or uncover on the beach, who decides, who offends, how far do we go so as not to offend, and how far to assert our freedoms? And who is behind all these rules? Do we blame religion, men, fashion, advertising, celebrity, beauty, the sex industry?

Come and discuss at our monthly discussion group in the Norwich Library, Tuesday 6th, 6-7pm, optional Pizza Express after.

Some of the articles up for discussion are below:

French Freedom of Expression, Burkas Incompatible?

French PM suggests naked breasts represent France better than a headscarf

Topless Marianne remark by PM Manuel Valls stirs French row

In France, the home of human rights, a grown woman asked my permission to sit on the beach

The Death of the Bikini?

The two-piece used to represent a saucy yet uncontroversial ideal of sex, summer and youth. Now its sales are tanking thanks to a combination of sun-avoidance, fitness, politics and, of course, fashion

The Burkini Ban

Abaya Burkini Wetsuit French beach ban
Only one of these was banned on a French beach

Cannes bans burkinis over suspected link to radical Islamism


Burkini ban: First French Muslim women fined for wearing garment on beach in Cannes

French police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach following burkini ban

France Corsica brawl: Mayor bans burkinis amid tensions

Burkini ban suspended: UN backs court ruling as right-wing politicians pledge to keep ban

French mayors refuse to lift burkini ban despite court ruling

Opposition and Opinion on the Burkini Ban

Banning the burkini is misogynistic – and Western feminists are turning a blind eye

Only warped minds would impose a burkini ban

Any ban on burkinis is “bizarre” and against the principle of women’s equality, the Dutch government said today while dismissing far-right calls for the Netherlands to copy French prohibition of the Islamist beachwear.

Fashion Freedom?

“Burkini Ban” Law Restricts What French Muslim Women Can Wear at the Beach

Five reasons to wear a burkini – and not just to annoy the French

What Is The Difference Between A Burkini And A Scuba Diving Suit?

Muslim Views

The Quran doesn’t say wear hijab

I created the burkini to give women freedom, not to take it away. The burkini does not symbolise Islam, it symbolises leisure and happiness and fitness and health. So who is better, the Taliban or French politicians?

The Burkini-Bikini False Equivalence and Your Disproportionate Outrage

Over in Italy…

Once upon a time in the 90s, in Italy – No bikini for “ugly” women

Meanwhile in Glasgow…

Councillors told to dress appropriately in safety guidance following killing of MP Jo Cox

Religion, Faith & Spirituality on Sex, Gender & Sexuality

The intersection with sex, gender and sexuality, of religion, faith, and spirituality is an issue for many people, both those feeling oppressed or repressed by them, or also trying to celebrate or adhere to a faith whilst still expressing their sexual and/or gender identity, or being female in a world that generally accepts equal rights for women, yet their religion may not agree.

In the 19th century some parts of Christianity were at the forefront of equality and ending slavery, for instance, advocating the rights of women, but now that state and society seem to be ahead of spiritual faiths on equality it is now religions that are behind the times on diversity issues such as sex, gender and sexuality.

Some interpretations of Islam (e.g., tribal Sharia law) still stone female adulterers on paltry evidence yet let off male rapists unless there are multiple witnesses to the victim’s abuse. Gay men are thrown off rooftops by Islamic State yet trans Muslims can end up accepted in other, even conservative, Islamic countries.

Mosques, commonly, like some Jewish synagogues and extreme Brethren churches, still segregate men from women, don’t allow women to speak or go about uncovered. Aren’t most religions male-founded and dominated and thus part of the patriarchy? Should women be free to choose separation and/or subjugation as a religious freedom of choice? How do we regard it, if it is imposed not chosen, and breaches of it are punished?

As the UEA debates religion in May, we ask some similar questions as to whether religion, faith and/or spirituality can be a force for change and good on questions of sex, gender and sexuality, or whether they are the ones needing reforming.

Discussion event in Norwich, Tuesday 5th April, 6.30pm, Millennium Library

UEA Debate on Religion

Is Religion a force for good? Should ISIS be considered Muslim?


Woman’s Hour interviews two Christians on their attitudes to abortion. Recently, a Northern Ireland woman was prosecuted for having an abortion, which would not have happened in the rest of the UK.


LSE Islamic Society has recently held a segregated Muslim dinner by sex, keeping men and women apart.


Even non-Muslim Air France stewardesses are now required to wear headscarves and cover upon arrival from any flights to Iran. Two Iranian women were recently fined a month’s wages each for having “bad hijabs“.

“Not that 7th-century scripture can justify the practice, but wearing a hijab isn’t mandated anywhere in the Koran. Forcing women to wear a curtain — curtain being the literal meaning of hijab in Arabic — is a political act cooked up by nasty, regressive old men, not some time-honoured religious imperative.” – Robert Crampton, The Times

The difference should be whether, wearing anything from headscarf to hijab or burka, the covering-up is by free choice rather than male/divine mandate.

Waria Muslims in Indonesia

Indonesia is profoundly traditional and conservative in terms of Islamic observance yet pockets of diversity exist such as the freedom some waria (assigned male at birth transwomen and/or crossdressed gay men) have to express their Muslim faith without harassment or condemnation.

“Everyone has the right to observe their religion in their own way (…) According to the Qur’an, we are not allowed to classify people based on economic, social, political, gender or theological values”


“It is because they are women and they are Yazidis that they are sold and murdered [by Isis]. What they are experiencing is femicide.”

Foot washing

A Roman Catholic edict suggests that women are not worthy or equal to men or representative of humanity to have their feet washed by a male priest during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.

Queer Bible

Is the answer a queer rewriting of the Bible?

“I want to make an inclusive, celebratory space within the text that undoes the implicit sexism, misogyny, heterosexism, hierarchical oppression, slut-shaming, etc. and reconstitutes the feminine, the queer, the outcast, the strange.”

Evangelicals on Transgender

A documentary called “Did God give me the Wrong Body?” seeks to give an evangelical Christian response to transgender people.

“Biblical Christians hold that ‘sex change’ surgery desecrates a body made in the image of God…A painful operation cannot solve the mental dysfunction…left with a mutilated body, but the internal conflicts remain.” – Christian Institute

Non-Binary & Trans Youth

The Free Church of Scotland has condemned SNP moves to accept non-binary gender and extend trans self-identification to 16 & 17 year olds:

“It is a policy that will bring untold disaster and harm upon Scotland’s children,” – Free Kirk moderator, Rev David Robertson