Should women’s clothing be regulated when on holiday? Travelers weigh in

Travelers tell us if women should be allowed whatever they want to when on holiday. Pic: StephenMitchell/flickr

ADMIST the controversy surrounding the case of French police making a Muslim woman remove her clothing on a beach in Nice as part of a burkini ban, the topic of regulating women’s clothing has been the talk of the internet.

More than 20 towns in France have pushed for the ban of the burkini on the beach, with 10 women already apprehended and four having to pay fines.

Policing women’s clothing is not something that’s new by any means. In a compiled history of the bikini, Ghislaine Rayer said that some beaches in Italy and Spain were the first to prohibit to wearing the swimsuit in the first few years of the beaches’ operation.

The New York Times added: “When it came to the bikini, not only was it forbidden in some countries, with women forced to pay fines and leave many beaches if they wore one. It was also seen as subversive and a sign of moral weakness.”

Meanwhile, in 1907, record-breaking Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman was arrested on Revere beach in Boston for wearing a sleeveless one-piece swimming outfit remarkably similar to the burkini.

In Asia, the burkini controversy brought about a wave of concern, especially in Muslim-majority countries where women may travel in conservative clothing, headscarf included. Sometimes, they go at it alone.

TIME argues that discriminatory bans make Muslim women less secure. Women wearing hijabs or burkinis are singled out for harassment and violence, and further puts them further in the crosshairs of Islamophobia.

Travel Wire Asia finds out if female travelers agree with the notion of their clothing being regulated by authorities when on holiday.

Elena Nikolova, traveler and founder of MuslimTravelGirl

“I was annoyed with the double standards that the West exhibit when it comes to ‘freedom’.

I have been very lucky to have lived in Europe all my life; in Greece, Bulgaria and the UK. Funnily, I experienced a racist nudge in France while doing a road trip through the country, with a French couple saying we should go home. I wasn’t sure if they were referring to my being Muslim or British.

I can see there is an underlying tension of discrimination in France even before the attacks and I feel that this has made it more apparent and acceptable. Having travelled to hundreds of cities across the world I have not had a bad experience and have been always welcomed, even in the USA.

Since when does freedom of right cease to exist when it comes to women? If I had the right to dress in mini skirts, I have the right to dress in a maxi dress, burkini, scuba diving suit and anything else I wish.

Muslim women in a burkini or abaya are not oppressed, trust me. If they were, they would be not laying on a beach in French Cannes enjoying the sun!

Traveling opens our minds, spirits and makes us more tolerant. It is recommended in Islam and it is the best way to tackle extremism in any shape or form even when it comes from governments.”


Pashmina Binwani, traveler and founder of The Gone Goat

“In modern progressive times, you would expect the French government to not be so short-sighted and encourage assimilation.

Admittedly, it’s easy to judge and hard to do, especially when there are attacks where innocent people are killed.

However, this is where the true test lies in our resolve to be informed and progressive, instead of enforcing regulations of what women can or can’t wear.

I have traveled to some remote places in India, and no matter how modest or forward-thinking the society is in those places, women who show a little bit of skin were subjects of scrutiny – even when I was wearing a T-shirt.

Their idea of ‘you’re asking for it’ is one of the most commonly used statements. Having said that, I realized it has little to do with religion, but mostly culture and their upbringing in these areas.”


Richelle Gamlam, traveler and founder of Adventures Around Asia

“Personally, I am very disappointed by the burkini ban. Not only is it completely unnecessarily, it also increases the risk of radicalizing previously complacent Muslims, while encouraging hostility of locals towards women who do prefer to cover up at the beach.

I have actually never witnessed anything like this while traveling. There are many destinations I’ve visited that require me to cover up, but I have never witnessed a situation where a woman is forced to disrobe in public.

In general, I think women should be allowed to wear whatever they want to wear, and in no circumstances should they be forced to wear less clothing in public spaces (unless it is a nude spa or something similar).

However, for me, it is important to also respect the culture I’m traveling too. If I’m visiting a temple in Southeast Asia, or a more conservative destination, I make a conscious effort to cover up out of respect to the culture.

I think overall, the world focuses far too much on what women wear and how much skin we do and don’t show. I think this is in large part due to the inherent sexualization of women in society.”


Lailatulain Abbas, frequent solo traveler

“I backpacked quite extensively in Europe and had experienced traveling as a woman wearing a headscarf as well as a woman who wasn’t. Despite the occasional weird looks by very few people, I have never experienced any abuse by authorities when wearing the scarf.

Women should be allowed to wear whatever they want and go wherever they want. It’s not the ’50s anymore. No woman should be told what they can and cannot wear.

With that in mind, you also have to respect the culture and laws of the locals especially during sensitive times like these. Maybe the French authorities should come out with a different implementation rather than stripping them in public. Not cool.”