European Court of Human Rights rules against school pool segregation of Muslims

In Auckland at the Mount Roskill public Cameron pool a segregated, religious swimming programme is funded by the ratepayers. The rationale behind offering it to Muslim women is that it will help them to integrate into our culture and society according to the New Zealand Herald article on the subject. The European Court of Human rights does not share this belief, in fact, they have outlawed segregation of Muslim students at school as they see it as preventing integration.

Our own New Zealand Human Rights Commission has been silent on the subject and the Auckland Council has denied that the ratepayer-funded religious segregation even exists.

On January 10th 2017, the European Court of Human Rights delivered their ruling.

The case was lodged by Turkish-Swiss dual national parents, who incurred fines by the Swiss government, after refusing to allow their two prepubescent daughters to attend the school?s co-ed swimming classes. Alleging that swimming with boys went against their religious convictions, the parents did not relent, even when school officials offered the option to wear burkinis and change in a separate changing area. While the ECtHR acknowledged an interference with freedom of religion, it concluded that the interference was prescribed by law and in pursuance of the legitimate aim of protecting foreign students from social exclusion.

…Swiss policymakers across the political spectrum agreed with the ruling, arguing that secular considerations enjoyed priority over individual religious manifestations, especially when these lead to isolation of children. Indeed, since the family lives in Switzerland, it would appear counterproductive for the daughters to be unable to benefit from the same opportunities as their peers. Further, the parents admitted the Quran did not require girls? bodies to be covered until puberty and yet they chose to prepare their daughters for a strict Muslim way of life early. One could ask whether this choice in itself constituted an interference with the daughters? right to freedom of religion.

…The judges recognized the importance to put children?s interest in a full education above parents? religious convictions, stressing that schools played ?a special role in the process of social integration, particularly where children of foreign origin were concerned.?