Sunday, 13 August 2017

It isn't only Muslim women

who aren't able to go swimming when men are around.
There is a petition up at present to bring back women's only sessions at a swimming centre somewhere in the north of England. Someone apparently complained that women's only sessions were a breach of their Equal Opportunity legislation. It was also apparently just one person who complained and the pool management gave in.
Did they really think that through?
For a start, exceptions are allowed under the UK legislation just as they are allowed under Downunder legislation. The thing to do would have been to discover whether they really were in breach of the legislation...and the answer would surely have been "no".
Equal opportunity should mean just that, equal opportunity. It doesn't mean everyone should be able to do everything at the same time or even in the same way, rather that they have an opportunity to do it.
Most Muslim women will not bathe in the presence of men. There may be exceptions that I am unaware of but I know a good many Muslim girls and they wouldn't contemplate undressing to that extent for men they don't know. Many of them would be "modest" even with their husbands. It's a religious and cultural thing. They simply would not go swimming. I know older women of other cultural backgrounds - Greek and Indian come to mind - who won't swim in mixed company too.
But they are not the only women and girls who feel that way. I know others who feel uncomfortable swimming where there are men. It isn't just the woman I know who was badly burned as a child. Her scarring is appalling and, understandably, she doesn't care to show it too much. She does go swimming at a women's only session. It took enormous courage for her to do it. A mixed session would be too much for her to handle.
What of the women who have had a mastectomy? Do they feel comfortable? 
What of women who are simply much older and would like to exercise - but not in front of strange men?
And what of women who have been sexually abused, harassed or raped? They may feel completely unable to appear in public in any sort of bathing outfit. 
Isn't it time to start thinking about what "equal opportunity" really means? 

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