Women’s groups have launched a fresh campaign to change a policy that allows men to use a historic ladies-only outdoor swimming area in London.

In 2019, Kenwood Ladies’ Pond which is managed by the City of London introduced a policy allowing anyone who claims to be a woman to use the bathing site and its facilities.

The women held a protest at Hampstead Heath, where the pond is located, and which also provides a male-only pond as well as one open to all swimmers.

‘Women-only space’

Maya Forstater of the campaign group Sex Matters accused the council of “not listening to women who want single-sex privacy” and promised to return the natural bathing spot to a “female-only oasis”.

The City of London claims the current policy is based on the Equality Act 2010. But recent guidance from the EHRC is clear that services can be provided on the basis of biological sex where this is “a proportionate means to a legitimate aim”.

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Sex Matters argued that allowing men to swim in the Kenwood Ladie’s Pond is not compatible with its aim as a “unique women-only space for swimming and relaxation” and a place of “refuge and security for women and girls of all ages”.

Petition

Let our Sisters Swim, a group campaigning for continued access to single-sex swimming sessions and changing rooms, launched a petition to the UK Government which gathered over 10,000 signatures in the first two weeks.

It says: “Safe single-sex or private facilities are vital to ensure women’s safety, privacy and dignity when undressing to swim. This can be particularly important for instance because of trauma from sexual assault or for religious reasons.”