Australian swimming center begins offering ‘ladies only’ swimming hours for Muslim women

(REUTERS/Jason Reed)

A swimming center in Western Sydney, Australia, has installed a curtain so it can cordon off one of its three pools into a “ladies only” swimming area on Sunday afternoons between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Richard McIntosh, the manager of Auburn’s Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre, has said that the move was made with the objective of encouraging more modest women to take up swimming. Muslim women and girls in particular, he said, would feel more comfortable swimming in a “ladies only” environment.

According to Yusra Metwally, who founded the group Swim Sisters (formerly Burkini Babes) last year in response to the French Burkini ban, women wearing full-body swimsuits during public pool hours can be subjected to “questions, comments or stares.”

“I remember when I was younger I was told by a lifeguard that my clothes weren’t appropriate for the pool,” she recalled. “You feel like you are being policed and that you stand out.”

In East Sydney, Muslim women have long swum alongside topless swimmers and sunbathers at the McIver’s Ladies Baths, a women-only coastal pool that has operated for more than 90 years.

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