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French minister defends women’s right to sunbathe topless

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A French Minister has spoken out to defend the right to sunbathe topless where permitted following a beach incident last Thursday.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin commented on two police officers who ordered three women to put their tops back on, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

The women were sunbathing at a beach near Perpignan, 30 kilometres from the Spanish border. Police responded to a complaint made by a family on vacation, as the parents were concerned for their young children playing nearby.

“Two ladies received an unfounded accusation about their outfit on the beach. Freedom is a precious commodity,” Darmanin said on Tuesday afternoon, adding it was wrong to ask the three (not two) women to cover themselves.

The Pyrenees-Orientales police later apologised and released a statement, saying there was indeed “no municipal order” to forbid “this practice in Sainte-Marie-la-Mer”.

“Guided by a desire for appeasement, the police asked the people concerned if they would agree to cover their chest after they explained the reason for their approach.”

Police spokeswoman Maddy Scheurer added the incident was a result of the officers’ “clumsiness” and that though people would “always see [her] in uniform”, topless sunbathing is indeed not illegal in the area. It is up to the local municipalities to set the appropriate dress code for beachgoers.

A 2019 survey from French health website VieHealthy showed that 22% of French women (or four in 100) had removed their bikini tops at the beach, putting the country in third place behind Germany (34%) and Spain (48%).

The UK was reportedly not far behind France at 19% (putting the country ahead of Italy, at 15%). Belgium was not included in the survey.

Amée Zoutberg
The Brussels Times

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