For 30 kronor ($3.75), the Stadsparksbadet pool in Borås in western Sweden now offers bathers who would rather not bathe in traditional swimwear something more comfortable that allows them to utilize the co-ed public pool
“[Previously] there hasn’t been a well-functioning alternative,” said pool head Anette Ekberg to the Borås Tidning (BT) newspaper, explaining that bathers who in the past chose not to wear regular swimsuits had to come up with more creative – but often less practical solutions.
“Some would swim in long pants and a shirt. Not the best solution but we don’t want to prohibit something because we can’t provide an alternative.”
The issue of appropriate attire for women at Sweden’s indoor public pools has received attention at both ends of the spectrum in the last year.
Back in February, the city of Gothenburg was ordered to pay damages to two Muslim mothers who were kicked out of a swimming pool for not removing their veils. The city appealed the ruling to Sweden’s Supreme Court, which has yet to try to case.
And in May, the central Swedish town of Enköping decided it would prohibit women from bathing topless at the town’s indoor pool.
The move came on the heels of the opposite decision by officials in Sundsvall in northern Sweden to allow women to swim topless following pressure from the Bara Bröst network – which translates both as ‘bare breasts’ and ‘just breasts’.
Ekberg claimed the pool’s decision to offer the burkini was a response to growing demand from bathers, as well as a way to avoid the hygiene issues associated with bathing in regular clothing.
“Clearly, it’s not as pleasant to swim in cotton clothing. It loosens more particles from the clothes and that forces our cleaning system to work harder,” she explained.
“Therefore we’re asking those who are interested to use the burkini. That way we can reduce the level of chlorine in the water.”
Stadsparksbadet is also considering offering burkinis for purchase in the near future, depending on the response from the public.
Sheeda Firouzfateh, a local resident who arranges women-only swimming sessions at another pool in nearby Sandared, thinks the 30 kronor rental price may be low enough to entice women to use the burkini.
However, she isn’t sure that the burkini will be enough to make modest Muslim women comfortable with bathing in the presence of men.
“I’m not so sure. It’s pretty tight and still shows your body. Maybe it’s easier for some, but others can still probably not think of showing themselves in that way in front of men,” said Firouzfateh.