By Elise Grandjean (AFP) – Dec 26, 2011
COPENHAGEN — Behind a locked glass door lies the 17th floor of Copenhagen's Bella Sky hotel: the Bella Donna floor is off-limits to men so women will feel safe and pampered, even though it's in violation of gender equality laws.
"I'm not allowed to enter. I have to wait here." Except in the event of an emergency, even hotel manager Anders Duelund cannot pass through the door.
"Me, I have a pass," insists however Chren Vilander Thomsen, the head of security, as he bounds into the protected area to remove the AFP journalist accused of disturbing the female guests on the floor.
"We've received a complaint and respect for our customers' privacy is a priority," he explains as he checks the identity card of the reporter who was seeking out some guests' impressions of the all-women floor.
Access to Bella Donna, which means Beautiful Woman in Italian, is so strictly restricted that a female guest who wants to bring a man up to her room must ask to switch rooms to another floor.
The exclusion zone prompted one anonymous plaintiff to report the hotel to the Danish Gender Equality Board on the grounds that "closing off the floor to men stigmatised men as aggressors", Duelund said.
Jytte Larsen of the women's rights network Kvinfo said the complaint was "inappropriate."
"There is just one person, a man, who claims that this is discrimination and that requires the board to address the case and rule in his favour because, according to Danish gender equality laws, it is illegal to treat people differently based on their sex," Larsen lamented.
On November 11, the board ordered the hotel to open the floor to men.
But, Duelund insisted, "we decide for ourselves who gets to stay at our hotel."
"This glass door cost 60,000 kroner (8,000 euros, $10,500), we're going to use it now," he said, his tone suggesting he was merely joking.
When the four-star, ultra-modern hotel opened in May "we didn't think we had to specially protect women," Duelund recalled.
He said the idea to create the women's floor had nothing to do with the Dominique Strauss-Kahn incident in a New York hotel or with the March 2010 murder of a woman in a Copenhagen hotel that made the headlines in Denmark.
"It's just a little prevention" that is greatly appreciated by businesswomen who travel alone and are afraid they may be followed up to their rooms, he explained.
"A lot of foreign women, especially Americans, come here but also Danish women who have heard about us in the media," the hotel's head of personnel, Tanja Trab, told AFP.
According to Duelund, "when a woman walks into a hotel room, the first thing she does is check the bathroom: she checks if it's clean, looks nice and is well-equipped. While the man ... checks out the view, the television and the location of the outlets to charge his phone."
On the 17th floor, rose and burgundy tones have replaced the black and grey hues found on the hotel's other floors, and the female clients enjoy special perks.
The 20 Bella Donna rooms are the only ones decked out with fresh flowers and fashion magazines, while the bathrooms feature high-end shampoos, creams and facial masks.
Belle Tyson, an Englishwoman staying on the floor, didn't know it was barred to men when she booked her room and pokes fun at the idea. But she admitted the chocolates and fresh fruit laid out in the room were "a very good point."
These "extras" do not constitute discrimination, claimed Duelund, stressing that the hotel has 794 other rooms that can be used by men.
In addition, underlined Trab, the advantages for the women do not come free of charge: "a room on the Bella Donna floor costs 300 kroner (40 euros, 53 dollars) more than the same room on another floor."
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »