Like men, women in Berlin swim topless

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Women in Berlin can swim topless in the city’s public pools if they wish, just like men.

The decision was hailed as a step forward in achieving gender equality in the German capital.

The measure, which was brought up this week, is also a sign of Germany’s love for “naked body culture,” or “Freikoerperkultur,” which traces its roots back to the late 19th century.

A picture taken of a swimming pool in Berlin in 2020.
Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Berlin authorities took action after a female swimmer indicated that she had been banned from entering one of the city’s swimming pools without covering her chest in December 2022.

The woman filed a complaint with the Department of Justice, Diversity, and Anti-Discrimination with the city’s Senate.

The authorities agreed that the woman was a victim of discrimination, and confirmed this week that all visitors to swimming pools in Berlin, including women, and those who identify themselves as non-binary, are allowed to be topless.

The decision comes in the wake of a similar incident that occurred in a water park in Berlin during the summer of 2021.

The Frenchwoman, Gabrielle Lebreton, demanded financial compensation from the city after security guards ordered her to leave the building when she refused to cover her chest.

The Berlin state government confirmed the move in a press release Thursday.

“As a result of a successful complaint against discrimination, swimming institutions in Berlin will in future apply their rules … in a gender-equitable manner,” the statement read.

A public swimming pool in the Neukölln district of the capital, Berlin.
Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Berlin resident Ida, who asked that her last name not be used, welcomed the easing of restrictions, but wondered what it would really achieve when it came to gender equality.

“If women feel comfortable with their bodies, and the looks of strangers who sometimes stare at them, then they won’t have a problem exposing their bodies anyway,” Ida told CNN.

But she questioned how widespread the women’s exploitation of the new rule would be.

The move is not unprecedented for Germany, as Göttingen became the first city in the country to allow women to swim topless in public pools last summer.

“another way of being”

This move embodies Germany’s love for “naked body culture”, which traces its origins back to the German Empire.

Rather than sexualizing the naked human body, this movement focuses on the health benefits of group nudity outdoors while exercising, or being in nature.

Keon West, Professor of Social Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, investigated people’s attitudes towards nudity in countries across Europe, and further afield as well.

“It’s common knowledge among most people that Germans are much more relaxed when it comes to nudity than Brits or Americans are,” West told CNN.

“The main discrepancy in views of nudity in Germany compared to the UK and America is the fact that naked people in Germany are not segregated from others,” he added.

“Instead, nudity is simply accepted as another way of being,” West asserted.

This movement is still popular in modern Germany.

Today, there are about 600,000 Germans registered with more than 300 nudist clubs.

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