Muslim students will now have to take part in mixed-gender swimming lessons, even after the European Court of Human Rights said that religious freedoms were being interfered with.
Switzerland won a case at the ECHR on Tuesday after a ruling said that authorities were justified in saying that mixed-gender swimming lessons were part of a ‘full school curriculum’ and the children’s ‘successful integration’ into society.
While the ECHR did say that religious freedoms were being interfered with in the lessons, judges said unanimously that the interference did not amount to a violation.
Muslim students will now have to take part in mixed-gender swimming lessons, after Switzerland won a court case on Tuesday
The ECHR said in a statement that the refusal to exempt girls from swimming lessons ‘had been an interference with the applicants’ right to their freedom of religion’.
The law involved with the right for freedom of religion, however, was made ‘to protect foreign pupils from any form of social exclusion,’ the ECHR said in a statement.
The court said that schools are important for social integration.
Exemptions, the ECHR said, are ‘justified only in very exceptional circumstances’.
‘Accordingly, 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,’ the court said.
The court said that ‘very flexible arrangements’ have been offered, including allowing the girls to use a girls-only changing room and letting them wear burkinis during lessons instead of traditional swimwear.
While the ECHR (its interior pictured above) said that religious freedoms were being interfered with, judges said it did not amount to a violation
Education officials said that exemptions from swimming lessons were only available to girls who had reached puberty.
The Swiss nationals’ daughters had not reached puberty when their parents kept them from swimming lessons.
In 2010, the parents had to pay a fine of almost €1,300 (£1,100) ‘for acting in breach of their parental duty’.
At the time, the parents said the fine was a violation of their human rights, particularly article nine of the European Convention on Human Right.
Article nine covers the right of freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
In 2012, Switzerland’s highest court in Lausanne ruled that the obligation to attend mixed-gender swimming lessons was not a violation on religious freedom.