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No holds Bra-ed: Topless swimming in Berlin legalised for women

A woman bathes topless
A woman bathes topless Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Jonny Walfisz
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A French woman launched a lawsuit against the state of Berlin after she was kicked out for sunbathing topless last year. The new rule is the result of her victory in court.


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

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

Lebreton was with her five-year-old son when she was asked to leave the pool. She pointed out that several men were not considered naked despite only wearing swimming bottoms, 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.”

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 follow suit with more relaxed dress codes in pools. 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.

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.

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