German city allows women to bathe topless in pools

A German city will allow women and men alike to bathe topless, becoming the first in Germany to enable female swimmers to go bare-breasted in the pool following a gender identity dispute.

Outdoor swimming pool Humbolthain
Swimmers at the outdoor swimming pool in Humbolthain Park, Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

The sports committee of Göttingen in central Germany has recommended to the city’s indoor and outdoor pools that all swimmers be allowed to bathe “oben-ohne” (without top) at weekends from May 1st, a spokesman for the local authorities said.

The decision came after an ostensibly female swimmer was asked to cover up at a local pool, only to protest that they identified as male, the spokesman said.

The local authorities wanted a roadmap for how to proceed in such situations and after much debate decided the fairest way was to create windows where all swimmers can bathe topless.

Germany has a popular nudist movement known as “FKK” — short for Frei-Körper-Kultur or free body culture — and the majority of saunas are mixed and require customers to strip off for hygiene reasons.


But the move from Göttingen, initially set to last until August, is the first for public swimming baths, which have traditionally allowed only men to bathe topless.

Some local residents have said the move does not go far enough, complaining that equality is not just for weekends.

The local authorities said the weekend rule was necessary to prevent school swimming lessons from being affected.

One swimming pool boss also told the Tageszeitung newspaper that a compromise had to be found to accommodate “customers from other cultures”.

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German band Rammstein hit by sex abuse scandal

Numerous Rammstein concerts in Munich have been altered at the last minute as the German band faces allegations of systemic sexual abuse of female fans.

German band Rammstein hit by sex abuse scandal

The gigs at Munich’s Olympiastadion between June 7th and June 11th have not been cancelled, but a notorious zone in the audience known as ‘Row Zero’ will no longer be present at the events, and all after parties will be cancelled.

The changes were reported on Monday after a slew of sexual abuse accusations against Rammstein raised serious questions of safety for young women at the concert.

In particular, several women have recently accused frontman Till Lindemann, 60, of grooming and sexually assaulting them at after-show parties.

The accusations prompted the city’s Green Party to submit an emergency motion to Munich City Council calling for measures to make the concerts safer, including providing sexual assault “awareness teams” and removing the notorious Row Zero area. The motion was signed by the Left Party and Ecological Democratic Party. 

Row Zero, or Nulle Reihe – a cordoned-off area directly in front of the stage – had been a key feature of many women’s reports of sexual misconduct against Rammstein.

The special VIP area, which was a common feature of the band’s gigs, was allegedly part of a system used to find young women and weed them out from the crowd.

According to the testimonies from accusers, female fans who were selected in Row Zero were often invited to so-called ‘after-parties’ where they described being encouraged to drink alcohol or being secretly drugged. 

Some women also alleged that they had been sexually assaulted in this state or made to perform acts they hadn’t consented to.

READ ALSO: German rockers Rammstein slammed over ‘repulsive’ Holocaust video clip

Sexual assault allegations

The scandal erupted after a young Irish woman, Shelby Lynn, posted on social media that she had been drugged and propositioned by Lindemann at a backstage party in Vilnius.

Several other women have since come forward with allegations of grooming and sexual assault at Rammstein concerts.

Most recently, influencer Kayla Shyx posted a video on YouTube in which she described her experience of attending a Rammstein concert on June 4th, 2022. 

She said her and a friend were approached by a Russian woman called Alena Makeeva during the interval and invited to an exclusive event after the gig.

“We thought we were going to the after party … all of a sudden she takes us into a back room like this … and she said you’re waiting for Till now,” Shyx said. “We were just brought in there so Rammstein could pick some of us.”

According to Shyx, women were made to hand their phones over to security guards before being taking to a backroom with sofas and alcohol. 

In the toilet, she said she was told by another woman that they were in a pre-selection of women to have sex with Lindemann. “All of a sudden I realise: I’m here as a sex object. Panic, panic.”

Shyx and her friend subsequently left the event, she said. However, she said she was prevented from discussing what had happened by her management and other figures in the industry.

“Everyone talked it down,” Shyx explained. “I was just scared. I’m scared to do the video now too.”

‘Young people must be protected’

Despite the changes made to the upcoming concerts in Olympiastadion, the allegations against Rammstein have kicked off a serious debate about the protection of women at concerts.

Speaking to AFP on Tuesday, Families Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) called for protected areas for women at concerts as well as the use of
so-called awareness teams to deal with suspected sexual assaults.

“Young people in particular must be better protected from assault,” she said. 

She also called for the complete abolition of Rammstein’s “Row Zero” system, which offers a VIP concert experience to a select group of fans, including the chance to stand right in front of the stage before access to an after-show party.

New protective measures must be discussed “quickly and concretely”, Paus said, calling for “a serious debate about the responsibility of artists and promoters towards their fans”.

In a poll published Tuesday, Bild daily said a majority of people called for the group’s remaining European tour gigs to be cancelled until the allegations are cleared up.

In the past, the industrial metal band has regularly courted controversy with extreme lyrics that are seen to glamourise far-right politics, violence and sexualised violence against women. 

Meanwhile, the band has vigorously denied the accusations and has hired a Berlin-based PR agency specialised in crisis
management to help with the fallout from the scandal, according to reports in Welt.

Welt also reported on Tuesday that Alena Makeeva – the Russian woman accused of recruiting young women to engage in sexual practices
with Lindemann – had been banned from all further Rammstein concerts.

With additional reporting by AFP