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      MP backing for swim sessions
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    Posted by: Admin  Friday, 13 January, 2006  02:48 PM
    Notices The reinstatement of women-only swimming sessions is being supported by Teignbridge MP Richard Younger-Ross.

    Mr Younger-Ross will write to Teignbridge Council after he met with Kathleen Blackmore and Pat Hunt who are campaigning to re-establish the women-only sessions at Newton Abbot Leisure Centre. The sessions were scrapped after the council received a complaint from a man and officials feared they could be in breach of the Sexual Discrimination Act.

    After intense lobbying from the women who attend the sessions, the council reinstated what it called "ladies swimming" sessions for a two-month trial period but said men could join them if they insist. The move was criticised by women and, on behalf of the group, Mrs Blackmore has been piling the pressure on to get the women-only sessions restored.

    Under current law, single-sex facilities or services can be deemed discriminatory unless they are held for religious reasons, in a state of undress or are likely to cause those taking part "serious embarrassment".

    Mrs Blackmore's first port of call was Mr Younger-Ross and she has also been in correspondence with the Women's Sport Foundation UK, the Equal Opportunities Commission and is considering writing to the Government's minister for women Meg Munn MP.

    Mr Younger Ross said: "I am in the process of contacting Teignbridge Council. If the decision is taken to ban the women-only sessions on grounds of it being at risk of prosecution then I think they are in error and I would wish to discuss with them why they think this is the case. I do not believe it should be banned."

    Mrs Blackmore said: "We were so pleased with the response from Mr Younger-Ross. We have had so much support from people. Me and Pat are also trying to secure a meeting with the leisure centre manager Barry Geden."

    Mrs Blackmore admits, although it has been difficult at times to maintain the momentum, she has received a lot of help and advice from the Women's Sport's Foundation UK.

    The foundation's policy and research manager Helen Donohoe said: "The law is such a grey area in this respect. I can understand why, when a public authority or any other body is confronted with a complaint of this nature, they have to be sure they are not breaking the law but in this instance the women have common sense on their side.

    "Women's only swimming sessions are incredibly popular and meet criteria including that of health, social and cultural interaction.

    "It is also an area where we know some women prefer not to swim with men and it may be because they have a reason to be embarrassed or it is because of cultural differences. It is not rocket science. It is a shame this has happened because of one complaint."

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