Women can now swim topless in Berlin as part of a new rule change

women in berlin allowed to swim topless
Women can swim topless after Berlin’s rule change Uwe Krejci - Getty Images

Berlin's government has confirmed that women, just like men, are now allowed to swim topless at public pools if they would like to.

Authorities introduced the change in a bid to fight against gender double standards, and it has been praised as a positive step forward for the capital. The move comes after a formal complaint was logged by a female swimmer.

Last year, the unnamed woman said she was prevented from using one of the city's pools if she didn’t cover her chest and in response, she made a formal complaint to the city’s Senate Department for Justice, Diversity and Anti-Discrimination, ultimately leading to this new topless-option rule.

Authorities agreed the woman had been discriminated against, and has now confirmed all visitors who use Berlin’s public pools are allowed to go topless irrespective of gender.

This isn’t the first time the issue of gender and swimwear has been raised in Berlin either: back in 2021, another incident occurred in a Berlin water playground when a French woman, who was with her five-year-old son, was ordered to leave the park after refusing to cover her breasts whilst sunbathing. She later successfully sought financial compensation.

Talking to the German newspaper, Die Zeit, she said: "For me, and I teach this to my son, there is no such difference. For both men and women, the breast is a secondary sexual characteristic but men have the freedom to remove their clothes when it is hot and women do not."

The head of the ombudsman’s office, Dr. Doris Liebscher, has praised Berlin’s decision: "The ombudsman very much welcomes the decision of the bathing establishments because it creates equal rights for all Berliners, whether male, female or non-binary and because it also creates legal certainty for the staff in the bathing establishments."

But the decision isn’t a new one in Germany. Göttingen was the first town in the country that allowed women to swim topless in public pools last summer. As well as making strides towards gender equality, the change encapsulates Germany’s love of ‘freikorperkultur’ from the 19th century – which literally translates as ‘free body culture’. Rather than sexualising a woman's body – or anyone’s body for that matter – the movement highlights the health benefits of communal, open-air nudity while exercising or being in nature.

Since Göttingen changed its rules, it does not appear there has been any reports on unwanted touching or sexual harassment in public pools. Let’s hope Berlin’s move brings the same energy.

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