Dressing down of bikini bather sparks beach protest

Women activists invoked women’s right to be in public spaces

A woman chooses a bikini while wearing a protective face mask in Beirut on July 29, 2020 ahead of lockdown measures after a spike in new cases threatened to overwhelm the crisis-hit country’s healthcare system. Lebanon, a country of some six million people, has recorded a total of 3,879 cases of COVID-19, including 51 deaths. (Photo by ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

Lebanese activists, mostly women, defied a ban on demonstration and protested at a beach in Sidon in response to the scolding of a bather in a bikini by conservative Muslims.

“We have all come to support women’s right to be in public spaces, whether in a bikini or a burkini,” Diana Moukalled, a journalist and women’s rights activist, said during Sunday’s protest.

“Public spaces don’t just belong to certain people as a function of their beliefs, but to everyone. It’s a constitutional right,” she told Agence France-Presse.

Sidon is a Sunni Muslim-majority conservative city and a sign at the beach entry indicates alcohol is prohibited and requests “decent attire.”

Lebanese law does not ban bathing suits in public, but women in the conservative coastal city often prefer to attend private beaches while wearing such dress.

After the beachgoer’s bathing suit was called indecent last week, the incident sparked a wave of solidarity on social media, with some women posing in bathing suits with the hashtag #Sidon.

Others instead praised the conservative intervention.

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