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ECHR: Muslim girls must take mixed swimming classes

ECHR: Muslim girls must take mixed swimming classes”

Muslim parents in Switzerland will have to send their children to take swimming lessons with a mixed group, including boys, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled.

A federal court in Switzerland had initially heard the case and ruled against them when they said it violated their freedom of religion.

In its ruling, the court acknowledged that the requirement to attend mixed-gender swimming lessons was an infringement on freedom of religion but justified the law by finding that it was crafted in order to "protect foreign pupils from any form of social exclusion". The court added schools have a "special role" in the integration of young children into Swiss society - particularly those from foreign backgrounds.

Education officials said that exemptions from swimming lessons were only available to girls who had reached puberty.

The ECHR decision backs up an earlier decision by a court in Basel which said it was important that all children take swimming lessons.

It also noted that the authorities in Basel, Switzerland, had tried to reach a compromise with the parents, including allowing the girls to wear burkinis for the lessons.

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They argued the school had rejected their request for their daughters to attend single sex swimming classes in another school.

The court also found that the parents had received fair legal proceedings in Swiss courts prior to their appeal application to the ECHR.

The building of the European Court of Human Rights is seen in Strasbourg.

The girls' parents, who are Swiss citizens of Turkish origin, filed the case in 2012, alleging that the school's insistence violated article nine of the European Convention on Human Rights, which addresses the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.

A year ago in Switzerland, two girls, aged 12 and 14, were denied citizenship after they refused to participate in mixed swimming lessons for religious reasons.

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