Argentinean judge rules ban on topless bathing is unconstitutional

Magistrate throws out “public decency” case against three women and calls for change to 1973 law

Topless row could lead to a change in the law.

In a decision that could lead to a change in the law prohibiting topless bathing in Argentina, a Buenos Aires judge has ruled in favor of three women who were expelled from a beach in the capital on January 28 by some 20 police officers who threatened to arrest and handcuff them if they did not cover their breasts.

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Un juez asegura que la ley que prohíbe el ‘topless’ en Argentina es inconstitucional

The incident, which was filmed and went viral on social media, saw police officers initially attempt to pressure the women into covering themselves up. The women responded by vociferously defending their right to sunbathe topless, pointing out that men are entitled to do so, and shouting “¡Machistas!” as a crowd gathered around them – some in support, but the majority seemingly opposed to their stance.

“To make the tit-phobes happy, we’re leaving this fascist beach,” said one of the three women before packing up her things and leaving. Another added: “We’ll be back another day and there will be many more of us.”

The women were charged under a 1973 law that doesn’t explicitly ban topless bathing, and instead refers to “offending public decency,” punishable by a fine that can be doubled if “the act is committed in a place where acts or public spectacles or were against religious people, the elderly, the mentally ill, women or children.”

Two ‘tetazo’ (literally, ‘big tit’) demonstrations are due to take place in the coming days

The judge overseeing the case, Mario Juliano, has ruled in favor of the women, concluding that the law is unconstitutional and calling on the provincial parliament of Buenos Aires to amend it.

“The constitutional contradiction of this law lies in its imprecision and the vagueness of the terms employed by the law (obscenity and public decency), which makes it impossible for people to know the limits of what is punishable and not punishable,” writes the judge, also noting that the “harmfulness” of exposing breasts is “certainly doubtful.”

“In this case there is no material means by which to establish whether going topless can be considered obscene and contrary to supposed public decency,” he adds, leaving the women free to go and calling on legislators to change the law.

The judge not only advises legislators to bring the law into line with “modern life”, but also reveals that two tetazo (literally, big tit) demonstrations are due to take place in the coming days: the first in the center of Buenos Aires on February 7, and the second at the Necochea beach on February 11. He also warns that individual women may decide to stage their own topless protests as a result of the furor generated by the case. Juliano calls on the police not to take any legal measures against them.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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