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Berlin to allow all swimmers to go topless at public pools after equality row

City authorities ‘welcome’ the decision ‘because it establishes equal rights for all Berliners’

Joanna Whitehead
Friday 10 March 2023 08:47 GMT
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All genders will be permitted to swim topless in Berlin’s public swimming pools, it has been confirmed
All genders will be permitted to swim topless in Berlin’s public swimming pools, it has been confirmed (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

All swimmers at public pools in Berlin will be permitted to swim topless, city officials have confirmed.

The new ruling comes after a woman took legal action in response to being ejected from an open-air pool in the German capital for sunbathing topless.

The woman, whose identity was not revealed, turned to the senate’s ombudsperson’s office for equal treatment to argue that women should be permitted to go topless should they choose.

Authorities agreed they had been victims of discrimination and said that all visitors to Berlin's pools are now entitled to go topless.

As a consequence of the complaint, the Berliner Baederbetriebe, which runs the city's public pools, changed its clothing rules accordingly.

“The ombudsperson’s office very much welcomes the decision of the Baederbetriebe, because it establishes equal rights for all Berliners, whether male, female or non-binary, and because it also creates legal certainty for the staff at the Baederbetriebe,“ said Doris Liebscher, the head of the ombudsperson's office.

“Now it is important that the regulation is applied consistently and that no more expulsions or house bans are issued,” Ms Liebscher said.

Adherents to Germany’s freikörperkultur, or “free body culture”, will likely be happy with the outcome.

The country famously has a relaxed attitude to nudity for all genders.

In 2022, several cities introduced topless swimming in public pools, including Siegen in North Rhine-Westphalia and Göttingen in Lower Saxony.

The Lower Saxony state capital of Hanover also changed its bathing regulations at the end of 2022, dictating that only “primary sex organs” have to be covered “in the wet area” of municipal baths.

While sauna culture in Nordic countries has long taken a relaxed attitude to nudity, there have also been some unexpected developments across the continent when it comes to exposing flesh.

In 2017, Swiss authorities overturned an 88-year-old ruling to allow women to swim topless in the country’s famous Lake Geneva and Rhone River.

The change was not extended to public swimming pools, however.

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