Topless sunbathing in France hits ‘historic low’

The practice of women sunbathing topless, which has been steadily declining in recent years, has hit a 40-year low, according to a new study.

Topless sunbathing in France hits 'historic low'
A topless sunbather on the beach at Nice. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

To mark World Topless Day on Thursday, polling organisation Ifop has published a new poll in which French women were asked whether they go topless on the beach.

The results showed that just 19 percent of women do, compared to 34 percent in 2009 and over 40 percent of those surveyed in 1984.

The main reasons women gave for covering up were health reasons such as fear of skin damage or cancer (53 percent) and safety reasons.

Of the women surveyed 48 percent said they worried about being harassed or attacked by men if they were topless, while 46 percent said they worried they would be photographed and the photo put up on social media.

The results of the survey confirm trends that have been in place for several years as topless sunbathing – once a feature of many French beaches – steadily falls out of fashion.

On the other hand nudism or naturism, while still only a practice adopted by a minority of the population, does not seem to be suffering any fall in popularity.

While going topless on the beach is perfectly legal, many towns have rules against being topless in public – and these apply to both men and women.

READ ALSO Where in France can you be topless?

Going fully nude is not in itself illegal, but public order laws can be used against people whose nudity is causing alarm or distress to the general public.

It’s generally considered best to stick to designated nudist areas or organised nudist events if you wish to be naked in public.

“The first rule for any naturist is to respect other people”, Jacques Freeman of the Association for the Promotion of Naturism in Liberty (APNEL) previously told The Local.

READ ALSO The rules for taking your clothes off in France

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Don’t ask Google, ask us: Why is France in Mali?

In this mini series, The Local answers common questions that comes up when you start typing questions with "France" or "the French" into the Google search engine.

French soldiers in Mali as part of Operation Barkhane.
French soldiers in Mali as part of Operation Barkhane. Photo: Florent Vergnes/AFP

Why is France . . . in Mali?

You might not immediately associate the west African country with France, but in fact France has had a major military presence there since 2013 and ‘why is France in Mali’ is the third most popular suggestion from Google when we asked ‘why is France’.

Commonly referred to in the French media by its army name of Opération Barkhane, the French military operations in Mali have been the source of some controversy and political tension for several years, and in February 2022 president Emmanuel Macron announced the end of operations in Mali and the withdrawal of French troops.

Mali, in West Africa, is one of the 25 poorest countries in the world and also forms part of the region known as Sahel, the region of North Africa which includes countries such as Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

Since 2012 Sahel has been at the centre of armed conflict with jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaida and Islamic State and since 2013 French troops have been taking part in an international operation against the extremists. It is centred in Mali because of the estimated 2,000 fighters in the region, more than 1,000 are from Mali.

France has historic links with Mali – until 1960 is was a French colony – but the French military, the largest in the EU, takes part in many international operations – it has been engaged in nine countries since 2011.

Since the beginning of the operation, 52 French soldiers have died, about 8,000 civilians have been killed in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso and 2 million were displaced by the fighting.

In June 2021, the French government decided that the army would progressively leave the country, a withdrawal that was accelerated in 2022 after a breakdown in relations with the ruling junta in Mali.