sex

Should kindy boys be banned from women's changerooms?

Last summer I witnessed an almighty brawl in a women's change room at the beach.

A woman told a mum who was changing her young sons - who were maybe five or six - they shouldn't be in the room. She felt uncomfortable changing into her swimming costume in front of them and demanded they use the men's change room instead.

The mum was furious, insisting it wasn't safe for her sons to be in a men's change room alone.

Their voices quickly escalated to screaming point and I made a hasty exit.

But it got me thinking - how would I handle the situation if I had sons instead of daughters? And how would my husband handle it if he took my daughters to the beach without me? I wouldn't want them going into a change room or toilet alone.

Now a Sydney swim school is in hot water for banning children aged five and above from accompanying their parents into opposite sex change rooms.

Aquabliss School of Swim (above), which operates seven centres in Sydney, has put up signs telling parents that kindergarten-age children are old enough shower and change on their own. Apparently they made the decision after receiving two complaints about young boys in female change rooms or young girls in male change rooms.

In the wake of the controversy, a spokesman for Aquabliss said the signs had since been removed and advice was being sought from the national body, Swim Australia.

But local mum Jennifer Seyderhelm said the signs had simply been moved inside the change rooms: "I felt embarrassed and awkward. I felt watched, like I was doing something wrong. My son starts kindergarten next year and is big for his age. He is totally unable to change himself after swimming. As I come straight from school and kindy to swimming lessons I am now forced to either change both my children poolside which is very cramped, let them go into the men's change room unattended or take them home wet. This feels totally discriminatory and shaming to me and to my children who are really too young to be put in this situation."

I take my daughters to swimming lessons each week and I must admit it sometimes feels uncomfortable when young boys in the female changeroom are staring at my kids as they shower and change. And, to be honest, it would unsettle me if I was the one stripping off (but then I'm a complete prude about my own public nudity).

At the same time I can understand the frustration of people such as Terence Sparkes, who wrote on the Hornsby Advocate Facebook page: "What is a single parent meant to do with a 5/6/7 year old?"

Where do you stand on the issue? How old is too old for kids to use opposite sex change rooms?