Temse: Veiled women kicked out of pool

Two immigrant women were kicked out of the Temse pool because they weren't wearing traditional bathing suits but rather leggings, t-shirt and a veil.

In the East-Flemish town of Temse 13% of the population is of foreign origin, and they had yet to grapple with the question is veiled women can take a dip in the public swimming pool. According to the municipal sports official Erik Vermeulen that's simply because they have never been confronted with such a situation before.

On Wed. Feb. 7th "Two young women with a veil, a long t-shirt and leggings coming under their knees came for an instructional swim for children. On top of that, they kept everybody out of their vicinity, also and especially the male lifeguards."

The three week old incident, that just now made the news, happened during the women's hour.

The women were in the end kicked out of the pool. "The reason being not only the veils but the entire outfit" says Erik Vermeulen.

Swimming veiled is not explicitly forbidden in the house rules of the pool. The Temse alderman of Sport, Marc Cordeel, adds that the rules are open for interpretation. "Last summer, for example, we had kids - immigrant as well as ethnic - that kept their boxer shorts under their swimming trunks. We took actions against that too, even though such a ban was not specifically described in the regulations.

Researcher Meyrem Almaci, who specializes in ethnic diversity at the Free University of Brussels, says security is rather a reason to keep out veils and loose clothing from swimming pools. "I can imagine that such a veil or a piece of clothing gets tangled in a filtering system. There are known cases where the victim had drowned by it." says Almaci.

According to her, the rejected pool goers can't quote "religious objections" because the incident took place during the women's hour. "There are no unknown men in the area and they can show themselves in a swimming suit and without a veil".

In Australia a Lebanese-Australian came up with the Burkini - a tight suit covering the entire body leaving the hand, feet and face clear.

In anticipation of the adapted house rules the pool personnel in Temse were instructed to send swimmers in "unfit outfits" back to the changing rooms.

Source: Nieuwsblad (Dutch)

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