Controversial ruling

Switzerland wins case requiring Muslim girls to attend co-ed swimming classes

REUTERS/Pilar Olivares - RTSJSUM

After winning a case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Switzerland will require two Muslim girls to attend compulsory co-ed swimming classes.

The case was brought by a Swiss couple of Turkish origin, who refused to send their daughters to mixed swimming classes at their school in Basel, according to the BBC. Education officials asserted that exemptions from the lessons were only available to girls who had undergone puberty.

In 2010, the parents were fined 1, 400 Swiss Francs (about $1,380 USD) for “acting in breach of their parental duty.” The couple claimed that such treatment violated the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects—among other things—freedom of religion.

While the ECHR acknowledged that the couple’s religious beliefs had been “interfered” with, it found Basel authorities justified in requiring the girls to attend swim classes.

Swimming lessons, which are mandatory in much of Switzerland, play “a special role in the process of social integration, particularly where children of foreign origin were concerned,” the court said in a statement. “Accordingly, the children’s interest in a full education, thus facilitating their successful social integration according to local customs and mores, prevailed over the parents’ wish to have their children exempted from mixed swimming lessons.”

The court also noted that authorities had tried to accommodate the girls’ religious needs, allowing them to wear the modest “burqini” swimwear and change without any boys present in the locker room.

The decision comes as countries across Europe are struggling to acclimate the million-odd migrants who have fled to their borders from Muslim countries, and it is not the first time that Swiss officials have taken a hardline approach to social integration. Last year, Switzerland rejected the naturalization applications of two Muslim girls who refused to participate in co-ed swim instrutction, and a man of Bosnian origin was fined because he would not allow his daughter to take place in various school activities — including swimming lessons. In 2016, authorities in Basel suspended the citizenship applications of two Muslim teenagers who would not shake hands with female teachers.

Read the full story at the BBC.  

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