Story By: Anastasia Smirnova, Sub Editor: Joseph Golder,Agency: Central European News
The biggest swimming pool in a Russian Muslim-majority region has banned women from enjoying a dip, sparking outrage among feminists and human rights activists.
The ban is at the Anzhi Arena spa-complex near the city of Makhachkala in the south-western Russian republic of Dagestan in the North Caucasus region.
A spokesperson for the swimming pool, the largest in the republic, announced: “From 20th January onwards, attendance of the pool is only open to men.”
The decision led to a heated debate among locals of the mountainous region where more liberal Russians often clash with Muslims with traditional social values and conservative interpretations of Islam, according to local media.
However, a spokesperson for the pool claimed that the motives for banning women were financially motivated only.
They said: “Unfortunately, there were hardly any visitors during women’s days.
“Specifically because of this reason, after a thorough analysis and evaluation, the difficult decision was made that keeping days open for women in our pool was not viable.”
In the North Caucasus region, it is common to find sports centres offering men and women access on different days, but activists said that a total ban goes against the Russian constitution, according to local media.
Instructor Fatima Abdulkhalimova, 31, a former professional swimmer, has vowed to never use the pool again anyway even if the ban is lifted, according to reports.
Of her decision, she said: “I think it’s to do with religion, I believe it is because a lot of religious guys come here.”
Reports said that three women from the republic have filed complains with the public prosecutor’s office for unconstitutional gender-based discrimination.
Many netizens also slammed the decision, with ‘Dashishe’ commenting: “I really don’t get how an institution can ban people based on their gender. All privately owned businesses should still follow the same Russian laws.”
‘BlackPanther’ said: “I am sick and tired of hearing that these men can do anything they want… and women can’t even swim in their local pool!”
‘LenaElenaParis’ commented: “Savages.”
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