From July 24, nudism will no longer be an option on the beaches of San Pedro del Pinatar (Murcia), despite the fact that some of the sands there have a naturist tradition that dates back to the days of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Nor will beachgoers be able to plant umbrellas there to reserve a spot, ride a bicycle along the seafront, take pets with them, or listen to loud music. All of these offenses will be punishable with fines of up to €750.
These new regulations have been passed by the conservative Popular Party-controlled council, without taking any of the amendments into account that were tabled by the opposition – including the Socialist Party, Ciudadanos and United Left, who all said they considered the rules to be too restrictive. “They’re among the toughest in Spain,” the opposition argued, despite the PP’s argument that the rules simply replicate those in place up and down the Spanish coast.
The most questioned part of the new regulations is article 10, which bans “complete nudity” and states that “no beaches are naturist” in the municipality, despite a long tradition of nudism on two of its six beaches. Locals claim that total nudity was commonplace on La Lana beach, as far back as the last years of the restrictive Franco dictatorship, as well as on La Torre Derribada, where naturism has gained ground in the last decade or so. Both are located away from the center of the town, in the natural park of Las Salinas, and the peaceful coexistence of clothed and nude beachgoers was a regular sight until now.
Locals claim total nudity was commonplace on La Lana as far back as the last years of the restrictive Franco dictatorship
But according to the councilor in charge of beaches, Silvia Egea, the sands have been attracting more and more members of the public in recent years, and they are “no longer the isolated paradise they were a few decades ago. At San Pedro we are aiming for family- and sport-based tourism,” she continues. “La Llana is not a closed off beach, it’s not a small or isolated bay, it is around three kilometers long and there are more and more members of the public there. So much so that this summer for the first time a lifeguard station has been installed in the furthest part for the town center. There’s a continuous flow of people and we have seen it necessary to regulate the practice of nudism.”
In her opinion, the measure will not have a negative effect on tourism, although she admits that nudist visitors “logically” will no longer come, given that baring all will cost them a fine of between €100 and €750.
The Spanish Naturist Foundation (FEN), however, claims such a ban is “illegal and unconstitutional.” Its president, Ismael Rodrigo, explains that Spanish law “allows for nudism in any public space,” not just on beaches, meaning that no council can ban it.
The Spanish Naturist Foundation (FEN) claims such a ban is “illegal and unconstitutional”
Under Spanish law, complete nudity in public spaces was considered to be an offense of “public scandal” until 1988, when it was removed from the penal code. “It’s not that there is a legal loophole, it’s more that what was considered an offense was abolished because it was understood to be unconstitutional and violated the freedoms of citizens,” argues Rodrigo, who claims that there is no other regulation like these new ones in the rest of Spain.
But the most similar cases are to be found in Barcelona, Cádiz and Valladolid. In 2011, the former approved an ordinance that banned members of the public from walking the streets of the city nude, in a swimming costume or with no shirt on, but the rules do not apply to beaches, seafront promenades or adjacent areas. In the case of Cádiz, nudity has been banned since 2009, but only on urban beaches, not in natural areas or those that are far from the city center. While it may lack a beach, Valladolid approved an ordinance in 2012 that also banned nudity on its streets.
In all of these cases the FEN mounted legal challenges to these rules, right up to the Supreme Court. The country’s top tribunal ratified the rules in part, but it did eliminate some of the less-precise allusions, such as the terms “semi-naked” or “near-nudism.”
Article 18 bans “the physiological evacuation (stool or urination) in the sea or on the beach”
A ruling from the European Court of Human Rights also found against such bans, on the basis that nudity is part of freedom of expression. But the council of San Pedro del Pinatar insists that its legal services see no conflict with their new regulations and insist they will apply the bans.
Beachgoers in the area will also face fines of up to €750 for reserving a spot on the sand with their umbrellas before 8am. A similar measure was taken by the Mediterranean city of Gandía, for example, and using the same argument: the area needs to be clear for proper cleaning.
Nor will domestic animals have a place on the beaches, nor cyclists, nor lovers of loud music. According to the council, none of these restrictions are new: they argue they appear in “more than 30 regulations from beaches from all over Spain and have been copied almost literally.”
Another of the more surprising bans is found in article 18: “The physiological evacuation (stool or urination) in the sea or on the beach.” Egea argues that this is common sense and in the interests of hygiene. Beachgoers, meanwhile, are asking themselves how local police officers charged with enforcing the rules will be able to tell if a bather is urinating or not while in the sea.
English version by Simon Hunter.