Swimming and Social Integration in Switzerland

Should Swiss Muslim girls be forced to swim with boys? Muslim integration has been an ongoing issue in Europe for the past several years. In 2009, a woman in France was banned from swimming in a public pool in a burkini, and in 2013, a German judge ruled that a 13-year old girl must attend mixed gender swimming lessons. The latest debate occurred in Switzerland.

 

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Switzerland was justified in “enforcing the full school curriculum” when two Swiss nationals, of Turkish origin, refused to send their daughters to mandatory swimming lessons in the Swiss town of Basel. The parents insisted that forcing the girls, ages seven and nine, to go to swimming lessons with boys was a violation of article nine of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

 

The European Court of Human Rights, however, said a full Swiss education is part of successful social integration, and that laws are intact to prevent students from any type of social exclusion. Exemptions from lessons are rare. The parents were fined 1,400 Swiss francs for not sending the girls to swimming lessons.

 

Muslim social integration is a controversial issue in Europe. Politicians continue to debate the effects of multiculturalism, secular tradition, female equality, cultural assimilation and social integration. Is forcing Swiss Muslim girls to swim with boys a violation of religious freedom or an attempt at social integration? It depends which end of the pool your on.