A number of hotels in Tunisia have prohibited the full-body swimming garment in their pools due to alleged hygiene concerns.
The hotels use signs and posters to specify the outfits they allow in their pools, but several clients in the hotels banning Burkinis have complained after being forbidden from swimming.
Speaking on Mosaique FM, the General Secretary of the Tunisian Federation of Hotels Wajdi Skhiri raised concerns over the increased numbers of women in swimming pools wearing Burkinis, stating it can cause health hazards for swimmers due to the chemical imbalance caused by a lowering of the pool’s chlorine levels, potentially raising the risk of infection and skin diseases. Skhiri added that the chlorine levels could not be increased as this would present additional health hazards to swimmers. He added, “The hotel is a private institution and each owner has the right to impose certain procedures that suit them”.
However, Moez Kacem, a specialist in Tunisia’s tourism sector, told Tunisia Live that “Banning Burkinis is a recent problem, it has not been mentioned before in our hotels and it is managerial rather than regulatory… We have to ask ourselves: with a majority of Tunisian and Algerian tourists, would it be profitable to impose such rules in our hotels?” Kacem was unable to confirm or deny the impact of Burkinis upon pool hygiene.
Speaking to Tunisia Live, President of the Tunisian Association for Supporting Minorities (ATSM), Yamina Thabet opposed the decision, arguing, “It’s unfair not to allow women to wear whatever they want, except for the Niquab, which I’m against as it impedes identification”. She added: “Wearing a Burkini or a Bikini, however, is a personal choice. It has nothing to do with public authorities and it’s a violation of individual freedoms and shows a lack of respect for personal choices by prohibiting such decisions.”
The debate over Burkinis has attracted fresh levels of controversy after French coastal towns prohibited the full-body swimsuit on their beaches, with pictures of French policemen instructing a woman wearing a Burkini to either undress or pay a fine.
Zaineb is a journalist in the Tunisia Live newsroom. She speaks Arabic, French and English.