Switzerland has won a case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) obliging Muslim parents to send their children to mixed swimming lessons.

As it turns out, the authorities were allowed to enforce “the full school curriculum” and the children’s “successful integration” into society.

It’s been acknowledged by the ECHR that religious freedom was being interfered with, however judges stated that it did not amount to a violation.

Two Swiss nationals of Turkish origins brought the case to court after refusing to send their teenage daughters to the compulsory mixed lessons in the city of Basel.

Yet, according to education officials, exemptions were available only for girls who had reached the age of puberty, and in this case the girls still haven’t entered puberty.

After a long dispute, in 2010 the parents paid a combined fine of 1,400 Swiss Francs ($1,380, £1,136) “for acting in breach of their parental duty”.

According to the parents, such treatment violated article nine of the European Convention on Human Rights, which covers the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The EHCR stated that the refusal to exempt the girls had interfered with the right to freedom of religion. However, the law was designed to “protect foreign pupils from any form of social exclusion” and Switzerland was free to design its education system according to its own needs and traditions.

It said that schools played an important role in social integration, and exemptions from some lessons are “justified only in very exceptional circumstances”.

Swimming, burkinis, and integration

  • In 2016 in Basel, the citizenship processfor the family of two teenage Muslim brothers was suspended after the boys refused to shake hands with female teachers.
  • A man of Bosnian origin was fined last year after he refused to allow his daughter to take part in swimming lessons during school hours, among other activities.
  • Germany is also facing similar problems – in 2013, a judge ruled that a 13-year-old girl must attend – but allowed the wearing of a burkini.
  • France is not immune to such troubles as well – in 2009, a woman was banned from swimming in a public pool in her burkini. That would be followed in 2016 by a controversial official ban on the garment in public spaces – which was eventually overturned by French courts.
  • France, Belgium, and the Netherlands all have bans on Muslim veils in public, to varying degrees.

The court stated that “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.”

It also noted that Muslims have been offered “very flexible arrangements” as a compromise, including allowing the girls to wear burkinis during lessons rather than traditional swimwear, and allowing them to change clothes with no boys in the room.

Source: www.bbc.com