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Switzerland wins case forcing Muslim girls to swim with boys in lessons

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 10/01/2017 Jamie Bullen
A Muslim girl uses a special swimming suit © Shutterstock A Muslim girl uses a special swimming suit

Switzerland has won a landmark court case which obliges Muslim parents to send their children to mixed swimming classes.

A panel of seven judges at the European Court of Human Rights found that religious freedom had been “interfered with” but that the move was justified with the aim of “social integration”.

The ruling was made after Swiss-Turkish parents Aziz Osmanoǧlu and Sehabat Kocabaş refused to send their daughters to mixed swimming lessons in Basel

Mr Osmanoğlu and Ms Kocabaş were ordered to pay £1,138 for “acting in breach of their parental duty” in 2010.

The punishment triggered a succession of legal challenges from the pair.

But the Basel court of appeal dismissed their claim and the challenge was also thrown out by Switzerland’s federal court before the European Court of Human Rights also rejected it.

The couple alleged the treatment violated article nine of the European Convention on Human Rights but judges dismissed the argument.

A statement from the court said: “The court observed that school played a special role in the process of social integration, and one that was all the more decisive where pupils of foreign origin were concerned.

“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.”

In December, Germany’s highest court ruled Muslim girls must take part in mixed swimming lessons after a challenge by parents of an 11-year-old girl.

The parents claimed the girl should be excused from lessons because even wearing a burkini, a full-body swimming suit, went against Islamic dress codes.

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