An Auburn public pool has installed privacy curtains and introduced a two-hour women-only swim period on Sundays so that Muslim women can swim without being seen by other pool users.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Belgravia Leisure, which operates the council-run pool, says the curtain was installed to overcome cultural barriers and encourage Muslim women to use the pool. Previously, Muslim women would buy expensive modesty swim-suits, arrive at the earliest or latest hours to swim, or not swim at all, so the addition of the curtain allows them to participate and feel comfortable in a way they couldn’t previously.
However, the move has caused outrage among many members of the public who have decried the “segregation” on social media.
Disgusting tax payer funded division & segregation.
We should be promoting integration not apartheid! https://t.co/AJotRxu2Qm
— Kirralie Smith (@KirralieS) May 16, 2017
Auburn pool gets swim screen for Muslim women – promoting segregation. What next – Muslim only buses and trains?#auspol
— Tibster AU (@TibsterAU) May 17, 2017
It's unAustralian. Your council rates are being used to promote segregation: Women-only swim hours at Auburn pool https://t.co/HUNlSB7RmF
— All News Alliance (@AllNewsAlliance) May 16, 2017
One tweeter pointed out the hypocrisy in people being upset about the pool curtain and two-hour per week women-only swim session, but not about women-only gyms which have been around for much longer.
Muslim haters out in force about Auburn Pool having a 2hr women only session on Sundays.
They don't protest Fernwood Gyms for Women though.
— Rover the Rainbow (@VVingnut) May 17, 2017
Others thought it was a great move to promote inclusiveness:
— Bridget Foley (@bridgetcfly) May 17, 2017
Despite the controversy surrounding the decision, the pool owners are well within their rights to section off areas of the pool for the use of Muslim women under section 126 of the anti-discrimination act which states that exemptions can be granted in order “to provide people of a particular race with equal or improved access to facilities, services or opportunities to meet their special needs”.