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Failure to overturn the ban on the burkini would be a missed opportunity to end an assault on women’s freedoms of expression and religion as well as the right to non-discrimination, said Amnesty International as France’s highest administrative court considers a challenge to the ban.

“The case being considered today offers an opportunity for the French justice system to overturn a discriminatory ban that is fuelled by and is fuelling prejudice and intolerance,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

“French authorities should drop the pretense that these measures do anything to protect the rights of women. Rather, invasive and discriminatory measures such as these restrict women’s choices, violate their rights and lead to abuse.”

In recent weeks several French mayors have adopted local decrees regulating the use of beachwear. Some of the decrees have referenced manifestly specious security, hygiene and public order concerns as justification and others have even purported to be aimed at protecting women’s rights. However, the rhetoric around their adoption has universally focused on the negative stereotyping of an already stigmatized minority.

“These bans do nothing to increase public safety, but do a lot to promote public humiliation. Not only are such bans in and of themselves discriminatory, but as we have seen, their enforcement leads to abuses and the degrading treatment of Muslim women and girls,” said Dalhuisen.

“If the French authorities were genuinely committed to protecting freedom of expression and women’s rights these abusive bans would be immediately and unconditionally lifted.”