Public pool cuts 'ladies only' swim sessions after man complains

Gloucestershire leisure centre blasted by complaints after Frankie Boyle shares petition

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Young Woman Swimming in a Pool Underwater

A sexism row has erupted after a swimming pool scrapped "ladies only" sessions.

A notice put up in the leisure centre in Dursley, Gloucestershire, said the dedicated women's activity hour was being cancelled after one formal complaint was made by a man.

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The Pulse, run in partnership with Stroud District Council, said that to comply with the Sex Discrimination Act and Equality Act it would now be changed to "adults only".

But the pool was blasted by complaints and a petition attracted nearly 4,000 signatures after it was was shared by celebrities including comedian Frankie Boyle.

Credits: BBC

The comedian shared the petition to his two million followers

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So after just a few days it has apologised and reinstated the ladies only sessions until it can consult further with swimmers.

Slamming the decision, enraged local Lorraine Patrick said: "I'm astonished, furious, outraged.

"The complainant denied a large proportion of our community the chance to swim.

"Many of them will no longer feel able to attend."

Lorraine, who is also a local councillor, added: "This may be the letter of the law but is certainly not the spirit."

But other residents in the market town, population 7,000, agreed with the move.

Credits: SWNS

The council admitted it should have taken more time to consider its response

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Responding to a row on Facebook, Gabby Elizabeth, said: "It is very sexist to have a ladies only swim session in my opinion. I don't see why they are necessary either."

But Nicola Davies shot back: "It's not sexist. It's meeting a demand and there are generational issues too... women who've grown up never undressing in front of men."

Dave Longden said the situation could be remedied by making a men-only swim too.

He said: "If the PULSE felt put in that position they should have made a men only swim session too so that there is equal availability."

While Michael Jones said: "I believe there should be a men only session as well as the ladies only but personally if they could only afford to do one then it should be mixed.

"No matter how you look at it. This is sex discrimination."

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A spokesman for Stroud District Council initially said: "We have been running these ladies only swimming sessions historically for several years, however we were recently contacted to justify why we ran them, as single sex classes are likely to be in breach of the Equalities Act 2010.

"Consequently we have had to change the session, which runs for an hour each week, to one for all adults - which also happens to be something many of our customers have asked for.

"We regularly review our programme and consider our customers' opinions, and whilst this may not be ideal for everyone, we hope they'll understand that we have to abide by the law.

"We should add that we are in discussions with Sport England to see if their exemption guidelines would allow us to reinstate the sessions, however it looks very unlikely that we will qualify for this as exceptions only apply when groups are underrepresented, and at The Pulse, the majority of our swimmers, who come throughout the week, are female."

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But explaining the reasons for the U-turn yesterday, a district council spokesman added: "There has been a strong response to our decision to end the ladies-only swimming sessions after we received a complaint alleging that we were breaching equalities legislation."

He said that "with the benefit of hindsight" the council should have taken more time to consider its response "rather than acting so quickly".

The spokesman added: "We will be taking the next few weeks to consult with our customers directly to get their views before we decide on what to do."

In 2006, Portishead Swimming Pool in Somerset was forced to scrap women's only swimming because of a similar complaint.

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