A public swimming pool in Luton is holding gender-segregated swimming sessions on a Friday, with staff stating it is a “cultural thing”.
Bathers were given sudden notice that from the 29th of July the competitive pool at Inspire Sports Village in Luton would be closed to women on Friday evenings for “cultural”reasons.
Men would have sole access to the larger 50m pool, which was built using tax-payer funded Olympic grants, while women are expected to use the smaller 20m community pool. Female bathers were allegedly told by staff that if they did not want to use the community pool they were advised to use either Lea Manor or Lewsey pools – both nearly ten miles away from Inspire.
When a female swimmer asked a member of staff at the pool why gender-segregated swimming had been introduced, she was told it was a “cultural thing”.
The woman told Luton Today: “Why has one section of the community in Luton been allowed to dominate and take over the best pool in the borough?” Referring to the large Muslim community, which accounts for 25% of the town’s population.
“I like swimming in the competition pool after a hard week at work on Fridays and now I can’t without any discussion and very little advanced notice.”
The men-only swimming event has been advertised as “Alhamdulliah Swimming” (a Muslim phrase meaning “Praise be to Allah”) by a group on Facebook referred to as ‘The Strong Believer’. The group administrator posted last week:
“Alhamdulliah swimming is back! We have the large 50 metre pool on a permanent basis. Starts this Friday inshallah [Allah willing]. Please share with all friends and family.”
The segregated swimming appears to have been a programme that existed previously at the pool in 2015, which has been revived again this year – and on a permanent basis. Last year, when the swimming was held on Sundays, posters advertised that the “awrah (navel to knee) must be covered. No swimming trunks”.
Gender segregated swimming is already becoming the norm in European countries such as Sweden. Pools offer separate swimming hours for men and women to accommodate for the Muslim population in heavily Muslim areas such as the city of Malmö, as well as a hundred other Swedish municipalities.
A spokesman from Active Luton defended the move and explained that on Friday evenings Inspire offered gender-specific swimming sessions.
“We regularly provide opportunities for different groups in our programme, including many different activities and swimming sessions.
“Active Luton aims to provide everyone in our community, regardless of age, ability or ethnicity, with affordable and accessible opportunities to get active in ways which suit their wide-ranging needs and lifestyles.”