As Muslims become a larger part of Swedish society, some municipal pools are offering women-only swimming to accommodate the new arrivals. But while well intended, the new policy is bumping up against Swedish ideals of equality.
On the face of it, the decision to offer special women’s swimming hours at the Hyllie sports center, a municipal swimming pool in the southern Swedish city of Malmö, should not be contentious.
Indeed, Malmö is not alone. According to a survey by the Swedish TV channel TV4, 13 of Sweden’s 100 largest municipalities have begun offering separate swimming hours for men and women. “Our facilities are used by 40 percent women and 60 percent men,” Johan Hermansson, the head of Malmö’s recreations department, told TV4. “Our ambition is for them to be used equally by girls and boys, men and women.”
But the trend is not just about achieving 50-50 visitor figures. For decades, Swedish city swimming pools have operated mixed-gender pools, but by adding women-only hours, officials are hoping to accommodate the country’s growing Muslim population.
And that is raising a much larger issue for Sweden. Should the native population adjust to immigrant groups’ different lifestyles by accommodating women-only swimming and the like, thus providing access to Muslim newcomers who would otherwise not feel comfortable in gender-equal conditions? Or does the implementation of such segregation, however well intended, ultimately undermine the country’s hard-earned traditions of gender equality.
Many Swedes are no longer sure. “During the past several years, we’ve had several Muslim women come and swim,” says Stockholm resident Carolina Johansson, who has gone to women’s-only sessions at a local swimming pool for the past 20 years. “But gender-separated swimming doesn’t feel like a positive development.”
Read more at Christian Science Monitor
Read about the challenges of migrant swimming in Sweden’s baths at Breitbart London