Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues


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Burkini & Beachside Oppression: Islamophobia Wave Hits France

J. Michal Forbes

Warm sand, clear blue skies and a seamlessly endless ocean. France’s beaches along the Mediterranean have been known as some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, as well as some of the sexiest.  Whether it’s Cannes or Saint-Tropez, visitors expect the same things from French’s shores—sunlight, small swimsuits and sexy women. Then along came the burkini, which to some, threatened France’s cultural beach identity.

Last month, amidst much international scrutiny and speculation, over 30 French towns banned the burkini from their shores.[i] The first question that comes to most people’s mind is what exactly is a burkini.  Designed by Australian Aheda Zanetti, the burkini is a custom swimsuit designed specifically for Muslim women who adhere to the Islamic tradition of dressing modestly.[ii]  The burkini resembles a full body suit and covers the whole body with the exception of the swimmer’s face, hands and feet.

 

Within a matter of hours, the ban on burkinis took social media by storm and suddenly the entire world was looking at France’s shores. French Premier Manuel Valls even supported the towns that wanted to ban the burkinis claiming that France’s beaches should be “free of wardrobe associated with religion and politics”.[iii] He also said the burkini is “an expression of a political project, a counter-society, based notable on the enslavement of women.” Social scientists around the world even chimed in, alleging that the ban was not about swimwear, but about protecting France’s non-Muslim majority from having to confront a changing word and protecting Muslim women from patriarchy. [iv]

France’s ban on burkinis, did not last however. In matter of a few weeks, France’s highest courts held that mayors do not have the right to ban burkinis.[v] Since 1905, the French government has practiced laïcité, under which the government does not recognize any kind of religious influence in governmental affairs. The current ban on burkinis was seen by some as a violation of laïcité, and the government’s interface in religious affairs.

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The question arises: is the ban on burkinis really an attempt to maintain and cultivate the culture of France’s shores? It may have been originally, but around the world many critics see it as France’s latest attempt to suppress the Islamic faith within its country.  In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Nice this past summer, the ban, which was enacted weeks later, is more like Islamophobia masked as cultural preservation.

The ban on the burkinis was nothing more than a push to further ban Islamic garments. A movement that first began in 2004, when the French government previously banned Muslim headscarves (hijabs) from schools. Then again, in 2011, when France became the first European country to ban wearing in public the burqa, a full-body covering that includes a mesh over the face, and the niqab, a full-face veil with an opening for the eyes. Though the ban was ultimately upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in 2014, debate still occurred across the world whether or not this constituted religious oppression. This burkini ban is just the latest law enacted to suppress Islam within France.

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The debate surrounding the Ban on Burkinis is far from over. This issue will likely reemerge in the next French presidential election slated for 2017. There is no doubt that the issue of keeping France “homogenous “will be at the forefront.  Once again, burkinis may be banned from France’s shores.

 

If the ban on burkinis becomes national law in France where does religious oppression stop? Will nuns be prohibited from wearing coif? Perhaps priest will be prohibited from wearing clerical collars? However in a country where Catholics make up almost 88% of the population those bans are likely not to happen.[vi] The real issue is Islam and Islamophobia within France.  France’s attempts to remain homogeneous in a world that is multicultural could lead to negative implications for France. And to think, the ban on burkinis was the spark that started the fire.

 

J. Michal Forbes is a proud native of Prince George’s County, Maryland, Ms. Forbes has a fiery passion for international law, travel and frozen yogurt. After receiving her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore she taught ESOL in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area before joining the US Peace Corps in 2011. Ms. Forbes served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine from 2011 to 2013, in a small town between the Red Sea and the Black Sea in Crimea. Fluent in Russian, Ms. Forbes soon caught the travel bug and traveled/worked extensively throughout Eastern Europe during her 27 month commitment. Currently a 3L, Ms. Forbes is a member of the International Law Society, Immigration Law Society, Black Law Student Association and the Women Lawyers as Leaders Initiative. She has worked for Maryland Legal Aid and the NAACP’s Office of the Attorney General. She was recently awarded the honor of being named Article Editor with the University of Baltimore Law Forum, a scholarly legal journal focused on rising issues in Maryland. It is her dream to work for the U.S. government assisting with asylum seekers and refugee. In her free time, Ms. Forbes enjoys eating frozen yogurt with her husband and learning Arabic.

 

[i] http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/24/europe/woman-burkini-nice-beach-incident-trnd/

[ii] The Surprising Australian origin of the ‘burkini’, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/08/17/the-surprising-australian-origin-story-of-the-burkini/

[iii] Manuel Valls: Burkini ‘not compatible’ with French values, http://www.politico.eu/article/manuel-valls-burkini-not-compatible-with-french-values/

[iv] France’s ‘Burkini’ Bans Are About More Than Religion or Clothing, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/19/world/europe/frances-burkini-bans-are-about-more-than-religion-or-clothing.html?_r=0

[v] French court suspends burkini ban, http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/26/europe/france-burkini-ban-court-ruling/

[vi] The Church in Decline: France’s Vanishing Catholics, http://www.ibtimes.com/church-decline-frances-vanishing-catholics-1125241

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Faux-Pas Fashion “Caveat Emptor”: Let The Buyer Beware

Kia Roberts Warren

Growing up in one of the fashion capitals of the world (NYC), I am, admittedly, a bit of a fashionista. I learned at a very young age that if you go down to Canal Street and enter a store looking for a Chanel boy bag that someone will take you to the small back room or a van filled with every designer name imaginable. This is the second oldest profession: counterfeiting. Many consumers believe that these counterfeiters are doing a service because consumers do not want to pay an exorbitant price for the real thing. However, counterfeiting is not a victimless crime.

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A counterfeit is a trademark infringement, a manufactured good being passed off as an original under the trademark.[1] This is harmful to luxury brands because their trademark is their business. Luxury brands rely on their trademarks to attract consumers and the brand mark signals to consumers the high quality of their products. Counterfeiting hurts the economy. The United States economy loses up to $250 billion in sales each year and 750,000 jobs lost.[2] In 2015, the EU economy reported a value 9.7% of their total sales every year or $28.7 billion and 363,000 jobs lost.[3]KRW Blog2_Photo2

Counterfeiting is a $600 billion industry and represents 5-7% of total world trade.[4]  And, these numbers are only increasing due to modern technology and the Internet. Because consumers can now shop within their own homes, counterfeit sales are on the rise because companies cannot watch the internet 24/7 looking for counterfeit sites [5] In 2007, for example, $119 billion worth of knock-off merchandise were purchased on the web.[6]

If clothing does not interest you like it does me, just know that more than clothing and handbags are counterfeited. Counterfeits have spread to toys, electronics, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals,[7] many of which are sold through legitimate retail stores and websites.[8] These are public safety issues; these counterfeits are made with hazardous materials to the environment and to people’s health. Counterfeit luxury goods, also, have serious criminal ramifications that are not known to most consumers.

Bangladesh

Shakil Khan, 10, has worked for 4 months in a garment factory in Old Dhaka, making money for his impoverished family in Chandpur, Bangladesh. Nafeesa Binte Aziz/Toronto Star

Counterfeit luxury goods aren’t just hurting the economy, but promote child labor exploitation, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and even terrorism as well as other civil, criminal, and administrative crimes.[9] A Vietnamese crime gang leader earned $13 million selling counterfeit watches in New York.[10] Children, as young as six, are treated to excessively cruel and criminal treatment.[11] Forced laborers are smuggled into the country with the products to sell them and to place the finishing touches on the goods after getting across the borders.[12] There have been reports of authorities uncovering operations where proceeds from drug trafficking were channeled into counterfeiting and, vice versa, where profits from the sale of counterfeit goods were used to further other illicit operations.[13] The FBI has evidence that the World Trade Center 1993 bombing was financed with counterfeit luxury goods on Canal Street.[14] In 1996, the FBI found that followers of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind cleric who was sentenced to 240 years in prison for plotting to bomb New York City landmarks, had made millions of dollars selling counterfeit t-shirts bearing Nike and Olympics logos.[15]

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So what can be done to protect fashion maisons and stop crime? Louis Vuitton employs about 40 lawyers, 250 independent investigators, and spends over $20 million each year to fight counterfeiting of its products.[16] Fashion maisons also turn to MarkMonitor (a corporation that accesses data and detects unauthorized channels and shuts them down) for help.[17] Of course, all of these costs get passed on to the consumer. There are also national laws in place. For example, the U.S. enacted the Lanham Act and Copyright Act of 1976.[18] In France, consumers can be forced to pay a costly fine and possible jail time for owning a counterfeit.[19] This idea is catching on in Italy and Britain as well. The European Union has placed two new regulations dealing with counterfeits.[20] On the international level there is International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC), Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, Anti-Counterfeiting Group, International Intellectual Property Alliance. The World Trade Organization has its members sign the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement.[21]

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In 2008, Louis Vuitton sued eBay in a French court. The French court ruled that eBay did not do enough to prevent the counterfeit sales from occurring on the site and eBay was ordered to pay $60.8 million in damages.[22] In a UK court, Cartier and Montblanc were recently granted orders ruling Internet providers to block websites selling counterfeit watches under their trademark.[23] Moncler has recently become victorious in the judicial arena. The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy under the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) granted the transfer of 50 domain names incorporating its trademark.[24] In its case against Royalcat (a Chinese company), the Beijing IP Court awarded the maximum statutory damages in a trademark infringement action.[25]

As consumers we have the power to stop the counterfeiting industry. We are hurting ourselves. We have a responsibility to protect ourselves and each other. So, if you see someone considering buying a counterfeit Prada tell them “caveat emptor.” We need to educate each other about where and who are money is going to.

For more info on how to spot a fake, click here.

Kia Roberts-Warren is a 2l at University of Baltimore. She has always had an interest in international affairs. She is interested in private international law as well as international humanitarian law. She is on the executive board of ILS as the Career Development Director and is on the Phillip C. Jessup Moot Court Team.

[1] http://www.oecd.org/sti/ind/2090589.pdf

[2] http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1254&context=honors

[3] http://qz.com/460932/fakes-are-costing-europes-fashion-industry-10-of-its-sales-and-thousands-of-jobs/

[4] http://michiganjb.org/issues/1/article4.pdf

[5]http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1254&context=honors

[6] http://michiganjb.org/issues/1/article4.pdf

[7] https://www.iwu.edu/economics/PPE17/lewis.pdf

[8] https://www.iwu.edu/economics/PPE17/lewis.pdf

[9]  https://www.unodc.org/documents/counterfeit/FocusSheet/Counterfeit_focussheet_EN_HIRES.pdf

[10] https://www.iwu.edu/economics/PPE17/lewis.pdf

[11] https://www.unodc.org/documents/counterfeit/FocusSheet/Counterfeit_focussheet_EN_HIRES.pdf

[12] https://www.unodc.org/documents/counterfeit/FocusSheet/Counterfeit_focussheet_EN_HIRES.pdf

[13] https://www.unodc.org/documents/counterfeit/FocusSheet/Counterfeit_focussheet_EN_HIRES.pdf

[14] http://michiganjb.org/issues/1/article4.pdf

[15] http://michiganjb.org/issues/1/article4.pdf

[16] http://michiganjb.org/issues/1/article4.pdf

[17] http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1254&context=honors

[18] http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1254&context=honors

[19] http://crefovi.com/articles/fashion-law/efficiently-fight-counterfeiting-fashion-luxury-sectors/

[20] http://crefovi.com/articles/fashion-law/efficiently-fight-counterfeiting-fashion-luxury-sectors/

[21] http://www.oecd.org/sti/ind/2090589.pdf

[22] http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1254&context=honors

[23] http://www.thefashionlaw.com/home/cartier-wins-court-order-blocking-sites-selling-fakes

[24] http://www.wipo.int/amc/en/domains/search/text.jsp?case=DNL2015-0031

[25] http://www.worldtrademarkreview.com/Magazine/Issue/59/News/Beijing-IP-Court-grants-maximum-amount-of-statutory-damages-for-the-first-time