Swedish Court Awards Damages to Muslim Women Denied Entry to Swimming Pool

January 30, 2008

Sweden’s second largest city was ordered to pay two Muslim women $3,113 each for ethnic discrimination after they were expelled from a public swimming pool because they wouldn’t change their clothing.

The Court of Appeal in Western Sweden ruled against a previous district court decision that had acquitted the city of Goteborg, and also ordered it to pay the legal costs.

The women, who wore headscarves, sweat pants and long-sleeved T-shirts, accompanied their children to the pool on two separate occasions in April 2004, but were asked to leave after refusing to change their clothes.

Lifeguards told the women they were not welcome unless they got changed into something lighter, because their clothing did not comply with the pool’s safety and hygiene regulations.

The court said the women had “been discriminated (against) in a way that is linked to their religion,” which prevented them from being able to comply with the demands.

It also said they had been exposed “to treatment that leads to discomfort,” and that being asked to change to lighter bathing gear could “generally be experienced as alienating.”

The city’s lawyer, Gunnar Andersson, said it was not yet decided whether his client would appeal the ruling.

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