A woman topless in Cannes, illustration - Lionel Urman / SIPA

  • This weekend, women were interrupted in their tanning session by gendarmes asking them to cover their breasts.
  • The case, relayed on social networks, sparked outrage.
  • Legally, were the gendarmes in their right?

We will give you the hackneyed intro "Hide this breast that I could not see" already repeated everywhere else, let's go straight to the factual. This weekend, women tanning topless at the beach were disturbed in their sunbathing by gendarmes in Sainte-Marie-la-Mer (Pyrénées-Orientales). The police asked them to cover their breasts, after the complaint and the call of a family whose children were shocked by the sight of the breasts.

The affair has been making a lot of noise on social networks, each going there with his little comment on the merits or not of the operation of the gendarmes who ended up apologizing, pleading a "clumsiness". Legally, "the sexual exhibition imposed in the sight of others in a place accessible to the public's eyes is punishable by one year of imprisonment and a fine of 15,000 euros", according to article 222-32 of the penal code . And before taking a wave of comments like "But you backward chauvinist retrograde, topless, it's not a sexual exhibition, it's just a body" in the teeth, we asked for the expertise of 'a lawyer.

You will always see me in uniform 🙂, but the practice of #topless tanning is well authorized at the #beach of #SainteMarielaMer.
Awkwardness of two security gendarmes who thought they were doing the right
thing ... 🌞 ➡️ https://t.co/t8ILTevokN

- National Gendarmerie spokesperson (@PorteparoleGN) August 25, 2020

Women within their rights

In fact, the article of the Penal Code “does not list the parts of the body to be concealed. There is no reason to conclude that showing her breasts in public space constitutes an offense. There is therefore nothing illegal in principle to do so, ”supports the lawyer at the Paris and Madrid bars Valérie Duez-Ruff. Who recalls anyway: "In practice, France sentenced a Femen to one month in prison suspended and to damages for sexual exhibition after a topless action in the church of the Madeleine in 2013." In short, if she insists on the fact that in 2020, nothing more prohibits the topless at the beach and that it is no longer considered as a sexual exhibition because of its democratization, the assessment of the text is done "in case per case ”.

Today, if a beach really wants to ban topless, it must clearly announce it in advance by way of a prefectural decree. Valérie Duez-Ruff cites Paris-Plages as an example, “whose regulations prohibit wearing thongs and monokini, considered indecent outfits. Offenders face a fine of 38 euros. But this was not the case in Sainte-Marie-la-Mer, where no prefectural decree prohibits the topless.

The mayor of the town, Edmond Jorda, has moreover defended himself from any policy of the seaside resort on this subject: "The town council and its mayor believe that the fact that a woman tans her bare breasts is not possible. no case constituting any attack on decency or good morals. In fact, they never asked the police to act in this context, ”according to words relayed in Midi Libre . Conclusion of our lawyer: “These women were entitled to refuse to wear their swimsuit tops. "


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