Officials in the German capital of Berlin have introduced new rules for public swimming pools and bathing facilities, allowing women to use them topless. The measure was introduced after a successful anti-discrimination complaint was hailed as a step towards creating “equal rights” for all of the city’s residents by a local anti-discrimination ombudsperson.
“Berlin bathing establishments will apply their bathing regulations in a gender-neutral manner,” the city’s government said in a statement on Thursday, adding that “topless swimming” should now be possible in the city’s public indoor and outdoor swimming pools for “all females or people with breasts perceived as feminine.”
A spokeswoman for the city’s bathing association confirmed that the policy had been updated by telling RBB radio broadcaster that “topless swimming is equally allowed to everyone.” The new rules do not mean that women in Berlin are obligated to swim topless, however, as they can still cover their breasts if they want to.
The policy change was triggered by a successful anti-discrimination complaint filed by a 33-year-old female pool-goer. The woman was asked by the supervisory staff at one of the Berlin pools to cover her breasts during a visit to the facility back in December 2022. After she refused, the staff made her leave the pool.
The woman then argued that the facility’s rules did not have any gender-specific regulations and only required the clients to wear “common bathing suits.” The rules were then changed following an intervention by the city’s antidiscrimination ombudswoman, Doris Liebscher.
Liebscher herself hailed the changes on Thursday by saying that the new regulations ensure equal rights for “male, female or non-binary” Berlin residents and “create legal certainty” for pool staff members. “Now it is about ensuring the regulation is applied consistently and there are no more evictions or [pool] bans,” she added.
Berlin is not the first German city to introduce such rules. The city of Siegen in the north-western state of North-Rhine Westphalia and Goettingen in the neighboring Lower Saxony region also did so in 2022. Lower Saxony’s capital of Hannover followed suit by the end of last year.
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