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Algerian women campaign for bikinis on beaches

Category: Gender in the world 

Thousands of Algerian women are campaigning for bikinis to become socially acceptable on the beaches of the north African country, defying those who argue that the swimwear is incompatible with local customs.



Sara, 27, the founder of a closed Facebook group militating in favour of the bikini, told Algeria’s Provincial newspaper: “Swimming in beachwear at the beach shouldn’t be an exploit or shocking.”



She started the group, which numbers more than 3,200 members, after a visit to the beach with her family in June, when she felt too intimidated to put on beachwear, fearing she would be verbally or physically assaulted.


The campaign is also a response to ‘traditionalist' youths who have posted photographs of women in bikinis on social media, accusing them of “acting against the values of our society”.


Members of the Facebook group first gathered on a beach on July 5, Algeria’s Independence Day. About 40 were present, but three days later some 200 turned out.


“The aim isn’t to make a lot of noise or even less to make headlines, it’s to change society profoundly but gently,” Sara said. “This can be achieved only if people grow accustomed to seeing what they still consider to be forbidden. We don’t want to change their vision of things, just to instill in them tolerance and acceptance of others.”



But many Algerian men oppose the bikini as a symbol of “western” values. Some argue their attitude was reinforced by attempts last year to ban the “burkini”, which covers most of the body, in France, Algeria’s former colonial power.



Bans imposed in French beach resorts were overturned after being ruled unconstitutional. Scenes of police telling women to take off their burkinis and wear more revealing garments had prompted international condemnation and ridicule.

Recent social media postings showing bikini-clad women on Algerian beaches were accompanied by comments such as “Where are your fathers?”, “Put your clothes on” and “Easy girls”.

Undeterred, Rym, a 25-year-old biochemist, said: “These frustrated men will not ban us from going to the beach.”

She added: “We have the right to wear what we like and go where we like, when we like. We aren’t just good for staying home.”

Bikinis are not banned in Algeria but there is immense social pressure not to wear them.



In Saudi Arabia, the new heir to the throne has announced plans for a beach resort will women will be allowed to wear bikinis instead of being forced to cover up.


Prince Mohammed bin Salman, realising that foreign visitors are unlikely to come to beaches where women have to wear abayas, a robe-like garment, said the resort would be “governed by laws on par with international standards”.



Saudi Arabian women are banned from driving or travelling without permission from a male relative, and are expected to cover their skin and hair when outside.




Tags: Algeria women campaign bikinis

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