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'Nudists are criminalized just for getting naked'

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Naked hiking. Photo: APNEL
10:36 CEST+02:00
As thousands of naturist tourists descend on France this summer to get naked on some of the country's beaches, a French nudist-rights organization tells The Local why an urgent change in the law is needed to protect them from being seen as sex offenders.

In a recent court case in France, judges heard how a naturist enjoying a naked hike in the woods dived for cover in the bushes when he unexpectedly walked into the path of a mother and her son.

Despite the risks he took to conceal himself, he was reported to the police by the mother and hauled before a court charged with indecent exposure. He now faces a year in prison.

The case is not the first of its kind but French naturist-rights group APNEL (Association pour le promotion du naturisme en liberté) have had enough. The group are demanding the law be changed so nudists do not risk ending up on the sex offenders list just for taking their clothes off in France's great outdoors.

APNEL’s Jacques Freeman tells The Local why their cause is important to the French economy and why naturists should be able to get naked wherever they want.

Jacques Freeman: “Each year there are more and more naturists in France and the problem is that the police don’t know the law, because it’s not clear. They interpret it how they want. So if they are in a good mood, nothing will happen, but if they are in a bad mood then you will be in trouble.

“If you get stopped by the police in France for having no clothes on, you can either admit to indecent exposure and pay a €300 fine or refuse to and end up in court. If you are found guilty you could end up with a €15,000 fine and a year in prison. You will also be placed on the sex offenders list, which means if you are a teacher, you will lose your job.

“Naturists are being criminalized in France but being naked is not a crime. If you punch an old lady you can get a year in prison and you can get the same sentence just for taking your clothes off. It’s not right.

“Our group is now advising people to go to court and we will give them financial help to fight the charges against them because the law needs clarifying. If we get a court to send a case to the appeal court, and if judges agree with us, then the law will be scrapped and parliament will have to rewrite a new one.

“Ideally there would be a new law, like there is in Spain where people are not simply punished for being naked. Their law punishes people who masturbate in public, for example, or people whose behaviour is clearly disturbing others.

Naturism is good for the French economy

“France is the number one tourist destination in the world for naturists with 2 million coming every year but at the same time we have this problem with the law.

“There is always an economic argument to these issues. If France becomes more liberal in terms of nudity then more tourists will come here and that will only benefit the economy. On the other hand if the law remains as it is, the chances are they will get naked elsewhere, like Spain for example.

“In spite of everything we don’t want foreign naturists to be put off from coming to France. They are less likely to be arrested by police because officers know that would give a bad impression of France.

“Our aim is for France to be more like Germany where people can take off their clothes in parks and other public areas and not just in certain designated areas for naturists.

"Imagine in a family if the wife is a naturist but the husband is not, where do they go on holiday? We need more areas where people can do what they want. We are the only people who are forced into ghettos in France and we don’t want that anymore.

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'Being naked is not shocking'

“People might say why change a law for us? Yes we are in a minority but a recent poll suggested 70 percent of people in France would be willing to try naturism but don’t, because they feel bad in their bodies, 25 percent of people are indifferent and only four percent of the population are against it.

“Being naked is not shocking. We want to able to walk in a forest in the nude just as freely as the people who are wearing shorts and t-shirts etc.

“When you are nude there are no differences between human beings. The colour of your skin etc does not matter or whether you are rich or poor, everyone is the same. The fact of being naked shows how fragile humans are. Naturists are very close to nature, we respect nature and we respect people and the environment.”

What do you stand on naturism? Should people be able to walk naked wherever they want? Let us know in the comments section below.
 

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