Rather a surprise, considering that they never respond to the issues that I raise in www.croydoniscrap.com. Then again, the swimming pool story was featured by several large media organs (can I say organ?), so they were rather forced to say something about it.
Anyhoo, at the end of this article you can read the full text of their press release. The Croydon Council spin doctors have made a good effort to spin the story around, and to try to present it as a storm in a tea cup. Rather a nice touch to use the title "Single Gender Swimming Lessons".
See, it's nothing to do with religion; it's a sex issue!
So that's alright then isn't?
Er...no it's not.
The trouble is, if you read it carefully, it doesn't quite stack up:
- Is not the provision of single sex sessions, in a public facility (as opposed to a private members only club), discriminatory?
- Why do women or men need to swim separately?
- The title and tone of the media release would have you believe that this was merely a gender issue. However, if this is only a "gender thing", why do the sessions require a greater level of covering-up than would be the case during public opening hours?
- Why, if this is only a "gender thing", are the "Single Gender Sessions" run in conjunction with Norbury Islamic Academy? (Scroll down to the bottom of this page from the pool's website).
- Croydon Council would have you believe that the sessions (which have been going on for a year) are outside of the normal opening hours of the pool, and as such no member of the public is being inconvenienced by this. However, it seems that they are being a tad disingenuous when they say that it is outside of normal hours. It may now be outside of normal hours, but the opening hours of the pool have been shortened (see the pool's website updated December 2006).
Sarah Fellows, a pool regular is quoted as saying:
"I take my kids all the time
but I did notice they had introduced the men-only Muslim afternoon
a while back though they've now changed the times as well."
In fact, if you go to an old version of the pool's website, you can see that the swimming pool was open on Sunday May 2006 up to 17:45, which was later than it is now. However, the male only sessions now start at 16:45. The pool opening times on Sunday have been shortened, thus it is perfectly "correct" for the council to say that the sessions are now outwith the normal hours.
- Why, if this is a "gender only thing", do people need to adhere to a dress code.
This policy, and the spin reaction, helps no one. Contact details for Croydon Council are in the original article on this site.
Full Text of Press Release
Single Gender Swimming sessions at Thornton Heath pool
Croydon Council is monitoring attendances at its weekly, single gender swimming sessions that have been held at Thornton Heath pool throughout the last year. Attendances have averaged 250 each weekend. The sessions have been organised to help ensure that as many local people as possible are able to make use of the facilities. Those attending have also been able to use the fitness suite and sports hall.
Contrary to national press reports over the weekend, sessions are open to all faiths. The sessions for women are held on Saturday afternoon (6.45pm - 8.45pm) and the sessions for men are held on Sunday afternoons (4.45pm - 6.45pm). The dress code during these sessions requires a greater level of covering-up than would be the case during public opening hours.
Provision of the sessions is in line with the council's policy of ensuring leisure facilities in the borough are accessible to the whole community. They are particularly appreciated by members of the Muslim community as well as other local people who feel more comfortable attending single gender sessions.
Croydon is in no way unique in offering such sessions to minority communities outside public opening hours and they have operated with the consent and understanding of all pool users since their introduction in November 2005.