Women only gym zones ‘not discriminatory’

Sweden's Equal Opportunities Ombudsman (Jämställdhetsombudsmannen - JämO) has ruled against a man from Malmö who disputed the right of a local gym to reserve a section for women only.

Women only gym zones 'not discriminatory'

Mats Mellerup said he reported the Fitness24Seven gym in Malmö because, in his view, women were receiving a much better service for their money than the gym’s male members.

Mellerup said he became irritated on a number of occasions when the area set aside for women was empty while he had to stand around waiting for machines to become free in the main section of the gym, where both women and men were free to train.

In its response to the report, Fitness24Seven told the ombudsman it had reserved an area solely for women in order to provide a refuge from the preconceived notions of beauty and sexual overtones to which women were commonly exposed in the media and advertising sectors.

The gym argued that its initiative to create special zones for women, which mitigated “the negative effects of the gender power structure and the sexualization of the public arena”, ought to be viewed as a positive move.

In its ruling, the ombudsman’s office agreed that the gym’s policy constituted a justifiable exception to prevailing discrimination laws.

“JämO is of the opinion that enabling woman to have a protected zone when training is a legitimate goal, and Fitness24Seven has done so in a way that is necessary in the current case.”