French burkini bans face legal challenge as tension mounts

​France's highest administrative authority is studying whether local bans on full-body burkini swimsuits are legal, amid growing concerns about police forcing Muslim women to disrobe.

Full-body swimsuits represent 'enslavement of women,' prime minister says

A woman wearing a full-body 'burkini' walks on a California beach in 2007. Several towns in strictly secular France banned the outfits this summer. (Chris Carlson/Associated Press)

​France's highest administrative authority is studying whether local bans on full-body burkini swimsuits are legal, amid growing concerns about police forcing Muslim women to disrobe.

Images of uniformed police appearing to require a woman to take off her tunic, and media accounts of similar incidents, have elicited shock and anger online this week.

Several towns in strictly secular France have banned burkinis this summer, but some fear they are worsening religious tensions.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls told BFM television that burkinis represent "the enslavement of women," but said enforcement of the bans must be handled respectfully.

Rights groups argue the bans are discriminatory and have appealed to the Council of State, which holds a hearing Thursday. A decision on whether to overturn the bans is expected within 48 hours.