"WE now have actual morality police telling women what we can and cannot wear in public in Europe. Let that sink in," lamented one Twitter user last week. It was almost surreal when I logged onto the social network and saw images of a woman on a beach in Nice apparently being forced at gun point to remove her clothing.

It was the latest incident following a series of decisions in a number of French towns to ban the wearing of the burkini, a swimming costume which covers most of a woman's body.

Later in the week, the country's highest administrative court suspended the ban imposed by one town, Villeneuve-Loubet, arguing that it "seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms". But town halls in other French towns have vowed to keep the bans in place.

Proscribing full-body swimsuits seems like the action of a frightened, panic-stricken nation which has lost hundreds of lives in recent chilling terrorist attacks - none of which, incidentally, was orchestrated by women.

And yet, my gender bears the brunt of what strikes me as male power games, whether in the name of religion or in government.

There is little difference in a woman's appearance being policed in France than in, say, Saudi Arabia, so let’s not be fooled here. The fundamental issue has never been about what a woman is wearing, it's about her right to wear it – or not too.

I thought that was obvious until I was confronted with an image of a woman surrounded by armed police on a French beach and began to wonder whether progressive thought existed only in my head, a feeling I’m sure many are struck by as Europe descends into worrying racial and religious intolerance.

As fears about terrorism have increased, the language around women in society has deteriorated alongside growing intolerance. Muslim women have become mere pawns in the battle. I now see men claiming to be consumed with concern about oppression when it results in the wearing of a veil, but it is often from the same men who believe political correctness has gone too far when you can't tell the new bird in the office that she has a nice pair. While there is a clear feminist headache in the veil debate, the boundaries of women's liberation being fought over by men who refuse to acknowledge their own roles in the problem is insulting.

Infringing on a woman's right to decide what happens to her body is a significant move. Even in Western countries, like Ireland, women are still not afforded the right to choose when it comes to abortion. Their bodies are still policed by the state. Liberation has not yet been won, and now, in France, it is moving backwards.

Make no mistake, morality policing means exactly the same thing in the West as it does in the East; it is a denigration of women, it is a lowering of their status and value in society, and, in France, it represents the ironic embracing of everything French citizens fear: the erosion of the values of freedom.

Meanwhile, little thought is spared for Muslim women dealing almost silently with the consequences of these decisions. Even in Britain, a recent report from MPs warned that Muslim women are the most economically disadvantaged group in British society.

It highlighted that a woman's liberation does not lie in what she does or doesn't cover her head with; it lies in education and equality. Creating an environment in which women can choose their own paths in safety is the key, and it does not happen overnight. Feminist awakenings require shaking off years of ingrained stereotypes and stigmas, and freedom is not something that can be given to a woman, it has to be found.

The very idea of men delivering Western freedom by foisting limitations upon women is outrageous, and we must get angry about it.

When women play such comparatively small roles in the violent frontline of the terrorist threat the West continues to battle, and when they are often some its most enduring victims – being forced out of education and into slavery, for example – the burkini debate is pushed into stark perspective.

This is not about terrorism prevention or community relations, this is a marker for a bigger question facing citizens in the West. What does freedom mean, and who does it belong to? What kind of society are people fighting for?

I sincerely hope other women will see the danger. When I saw the pictures of that lonely figure surrounded by armed men and onlookers doing no more than watching, I saw a glimpse of my own future. We are women as much as we are black, white, Muslim or Christian, and we can become victims of the war on terror wherever, whoever we are.