It wasn’t forbidden anyway – but now topless bathing in Berlin’s swimming pools should no longer be a problem for women. In an internal instruction, it was made clear that swimming “topless” is equally permitted for everyone, said a spokeswoman for the Berlin baths company (BBB).

The Senate Department for Justice, Diversity and Anti-Discrimination had previously announced on Thursday that the company would apply the house and bathing rules in a “gender-fair” manner in the future. According to the Senate administration, the background to this is a successful complaint to the ombudsman responsible for the Anti-Discrimination Act of the State of Berlin (LADG).

A woman complained because she was not allowed to swim “topless” in a Berlin pool like men. Another case in Berlin had made headlines nationwide: a woman was expelled from a water playground in the Berlin district of Treptow-Köpenick in the summer of 2021 because of her bare upper body. From the point of view of the ombudsman, this constituted discrimination. However, an action against the state of Berlin for financial compensation was unsuccessful. In September 2022, the Berlin Regional Court saw no basis for this under the Anti-Discrimination Act (Az. 26 O 80/22).

Swimwear for the primary genitals

According to plaintiff attorney Leonie Thum, an appeal was lodged against the verdict. Her client had demanded at least 10,000 euros from the state of Berlin. On the recommendation of the ombudsman, however, the water playground had amended its usage regulations. According to this, it applies to all genders that swimwear must completely cover the primary genitals. The female breast is considered a secondary sex organ.

Now the clarification of the bathing establishments followed. The house and bathing rules have not made any gender-specific regulations with regard to swimwear for years, it said. “However, this has been interpreted and handled differently by our guests and depending on the bathroom,” said the spokeswoman.

The ombudsman welcomes the clarification, said its head Doris Liebscher. The decision creates “equal rights for all Berliners, whether male, female or non-binary”. In addition, it creates legal certainty for the staff in the pool companies. “Now it’s a matter of the regulation being applied consistently and no more evictions or house bans being issued,” emphasized Liebscher.

Not a matter of course

Topless bathing is not a matter of course for women in Germany. However, some pools allowed this in the summer of 2022 – for example in Göttingen in Lower Saxony or in Siegen in North Rhine-Westphalia.

As a representative survey by the opinion research institute YouGov on behalf of the German Press Agency showed at the time, many adults are in favor of not necessarily obliging women to wear tops. 37 percent find it positive if, for example, the clear dress code in the outdoor pool – women have to wear a bikini or bathing suit, panties are not enough – is abolished. However, nationwide, 28 percent found topless bathing by women “not good”.