Switzerland Wins Human Rights Case on Muslim Children Taking Mixed Swimming Classes

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Switzerland had not violated human rights by insisting that Muslim children attend mixed swimming classes.

The case centred on two Muslim parents who took the authorities to court over their wish that their children did not attend mixed swimming classes.  Switzerland, like most EU countries have a mixed class system for swimming lessons.

ECHR unanimously agreed that Swiss authorities had not violated freedom of religion by insisting the two Muslim daughters attend mixed swimming classes.  The judgement was based on the children’s integration into “local customs and mores”, taking president over their parents desire.

The case was put to the ECHR in 2012 after a long-running dispute with authorities.  Both parents are of Turkish descent.

The Basel based parents had been fined €1,300 in 2010 for “breach of their parental duty” for not letting their children attend mixed classes.  The parents argued in court that their beliefs meant they could not let their children attend mixed classes.

In Swiss law, children going through puberty can be exempt from swimming lessons, but the parents were told that at the time their daughters had yet to qualify.

The ECHR noted that Swiss authorities had tried to make the lessons more acceptable to the parents.  The children would have been allowed to wear burkinis and they could have got changed without boys being present.  As such, the ECHR upheld the decision of the Swiss federal court and concluded that authorities had not broken Article 9 of the European convention on human rights.

In a statement, ECHR said, school played “a special role in the process of social integration, particularly where children of foreign origin were concerned.

“The children’s interest in attending swimming lessons was not just to learn to swim, but above all to take part in that activity with all the other pupils, with no exception on account of the children’s origin or their parents’ religious or philosophical convictions.”

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