An Egyptian women’s rights activist has slammed the ‘definite discrimination’ facing women who wear Islamic swimwear at the country’s high-end resorts.
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Gender and Women’s Rights Officer Dalia Abd El-Hameed made the comments after the government u-turned on a law which made it illegal to ban customers wearing the ‘Burkini’ from the country’s touristic hotspots.
“I think that it is definite discrimination, she told Al Bawaba News.
“However, I think that we must look at it in the broader context of Egyptian society’s desire to control women’s bodies and what they wear.
“The ‘Burkini’ is seen as problematic by certain high-end resorts and the women who wear it face discrimination and violations while women from other social classes face similar circumstances if they wear a bikini.
“Women who wear the hijab also face discrimination in many entertainment venues and the niqab is seen as a taboo in many sections of society.
“Women in Egypt are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.”
The decision comes following years of controversy as hotel owners in the country’s upmarket resorts refuse to allow patrons to enter the pool while wearing the religious swimwear.
In the past, videos have surfaced of burkini-clad women being verbally and physically abused by staff members or fellow beach-goers or banned from resorts altogether for wearing the garment.
Despite this the ‘Burkini’ remains popular in a country where the majority of women wear the hijab in everyday life.
Last week, officials at Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism passed the law stating that ‘burkinis’ should be allowed in the water as long as they are made from appropriate material.
The Egyptian Hotel Association said that each hotel must reverse any decision to ban the garment and that multiple pool facilities must set aside a space for burkini-wearing women.
The anti-discriminatory measure sparked an outcry from figures within the hotel industry with Head of the Chamber of Red Sea Hotel Facilities Ali al-Halawany telling Al-Masry-Al-Youm that each facility should be allowed to decide whether or not to allow Islamic swim wear on their premises.
Less than 24 hours later, the decision to stop any ‘burkini’ ban was reversed.
Abd El-Hameed added: “I believe that society in Egypt must change its desire to control women, their bodies and what they choose to wear.
“None of these issues are applicable to men so it is time that we stop this double standard.”