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Australian Mom Barred from Pool for Wearing a Dress Says There's a Way Around Rule: Be a Muslim


"I can only let Muslims in the pool in dresses."

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An Australian woman said she was prevented from swimming in a public pool because she wore a dress instead of traditional swimwear — but may have gotten a pass if not for one small issue.

"I can only let Muslims in the pool in dresses," the lifeguard said Friday according to Katherine Pulo, 39, who was interviewed by the Illawarra Mercury.

Pulo said she's worn the dress previously without incident and asked the lifeguard, "How do you know I'm not Muslim?"

"You're not Muslim," she said the guard replied.

Katherine Pulo, left (Image source: Illawanna Mercury/Orlando Chiodo)

Pulo issued a complaint with the local council, citing discrimination.

After she arrived at the Olympic Pool in Kembla, about an hour and 20 minutes south of Sydney, with her two sons, 8 and 5, they called for her to join them in the water. But Pulo replied, "I can't," she told the Mercury.

"I feel discriminated against," Pulo told the Mercury. "Just because I'm not bound by a religion shouldn't mean I can't dress modestly. It's my choice. Why should I miss out on going for a swim because I'm conscious about my body?"

A friend of Pulo, Fiona Garcia, whose daughter was swimming with Pulo's children, said she approached the lifeguard over the incident, telling him, "This is discrimination."

Informed that he would be the subject of a complaint, the guard replied, "Put in two [complaints]," Garcia told the Mercury.

Wollongong City Council's manager of property and recreation, Peter Coyte, said swimmers at the city's public pools were required to wear "swimming attire" in the water.

"Council works within guidelines set out by (New South Wales) Health, and therefore doesn't permit the wearing of inappropriate clothing, or 'street' clothing, due to potential health risks," Coyte told the Mercury.

Signs were posted at all council-run pools, advising swimmers that appropriate swimming attire must be worn in the water, and lifeguards were required to enforce the rule, a council spokeswoman said.

Yet the council apologized and indicated it would investigate Pulo's complaint.

(H/T: Illawarra Mercury)

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