A French woman has won a lawsuit permitting women to go topless at public pools in Berlin.

The decision is also being hailed by proponents of Germany’s freikorperkultur, or “free body culture”.

In 2022, Gabrielle Lebreton, a French woman who lived in the German capital, sued the state of Berlin claiming she been discriminated against when she was asked to cover up by security guards at the Plansche pool in the Treptow-Köpenick district.

Lebreton opined that several men were not considered naked despite only wearing swimming trunks, but the police were called and she was ejected from the premises.

Although she said she was aware of the social differences in topless men and women in Germany, she told Die Zeit at the time that: “For me — and I teach this to my son — no, there is no such difference. For both men and women, the breast is a secondary sexual characteristic but men have the freedom to remove their clothes when it is hot and women do not.”

An interesting interpretation that challenges morals and the law.

While the pool changed its policy afterwards, Lebreton has challenged the state of Berlin over a 2020 law against discrimination.

The Berliner Baederbetriebe, which runs the city’s pools, has responded this week by agreeing with Lebreton’s case, forcing public pools to all permit women to sunbathe and swim topless.

“The ombudsperson’s office very much welcomes the decision of the Baederbetriebe, because it establishes equal rights for all Berliners, whether male, female or non-binary, and because it also creates legal certainty for the staff at the Baederbetriebe,“ said Doris Liebscher, the head of the ombudsperson’s office.

Berlin is just the latest German city to change its position on gender equality and dress codes. In 2022, Siegen in North Rhine-Westphalia and Göttingen in Lower Saxony introduced topless swimming in public pools.

Also last year, Hanover changed its regulations to require only “primary sex organs” to be covered in pools.

But other establishments have taken equality a step further.

In private pools like at Vabali, a chain of spas in Berlin and Hamburg, guests are required to go without any swimming costumes, with only towels permitted in the bathing spaces.

The move in Berlin also speaks to Germany’s love of Freikoerperkultur or FKK — which has its origins in the German Empire. Freikörperkultur, which translates to free body culture,

consists in the connection of health aspects of being naked in light, air and sun with intentions to reform life and society. It is identical with the culture of nudity or naturism.

Arnd Bauerkämper, associate professor of modern history at Freie University in Berlin, in a BBC report said, “Nudism has had a long tradition in Germany. At the turn of the 20th Century, Lebensreform (“life reform”) was in the air, a philosophy that advocated for organic food, sexual liberation, alternative medicine and simpler living closer to nature. Nudism is part of this broader movement, which was directed against industrial modernity, against the new society that emerged in the late 19th Century.”

FKK also non-sexualises the body. East Berlin-born Gregor Gysi, president of the European Left, in a Deutsche Welle (DW) report said: “I see FKK as a possible counterweight to the ubiquitous sexualisation in advertising, but also in society in general.”

Proponents of this culture also state that FKK has beneficial effects on body image and wellbeing. “Nudism makes us happier,” concluded Dr Keon West, a psychology professor at the University of London, who conducted a 2017 survey of 850 British people on the subject.

Many who support FKK believe that a social media-driven desire for the perfect body as well as a more multicultural society where newcomers are not so willing to accept the FKKlers’ acceptance of public nudity is the cause for the trend to be dying out.

A report published by Forbes also said that many young people aren’t comfortable baring it all in public. In fact, studies show that most of the naked sunbathers are either over 45 or infants, while bathers in the buff under 25 have become rare.

“Younger people are far less likely than their parents to strip off their trunks or bikinis in public, in part because they regard fashion as a crucial marker of group identity,” said Kurt Fischer, president of the German Federation of Naturist Clubs (DFK).

“People are now defined by their appearance and the concept that ‘naked we are all equal’ is hardly winning,” he added.


Image via Daily Mail

« Back to Articles