Today we often see feminists protesting for the right for women to walk around topless. Surely this would imply that women do not have this right.

Women have the right to go topless in public, de facto or de jure, in most Western jurisdictions. Many jurisdictions have made it explicitly legal while many others simply don’t enforce laws against women going topless. Most of the US permits women to go topless alongside several Canadian provinces. Further, in an increasing number of jurisdictions women may go entirely naked in public. This means that we yet again see feminists protesting for rights that they already have.

In Queensland, Australia a retired law professor, Dr Craig Burgess, confirmed what had long been suspected: Indecent exposure laws only apply to men. Section 9 of the Summary Offences Act 2005 (Qld) makes it clear that a person must expose their genitals to commit this offence. Queensland courts have always considered men’s genitals to be exposed merely by the man standing naked in public (or in a place that can be seen by the public) while women’s are considered to be covered. While undertaking research Dr Burgess could find no examples of women having ever been charged with wilful exposure in Queensland.

A November 13, 2016 news article in the Courier Mail entitled Police blitz on Noosa beach nudists nets men while women walk free [paywall] reported that 11 men were charged by police with wilful exposure for being naked in public while women who were present, and in some cases in the company of those men, were not charged.

The beach in question is in vicinity of Noosa, a well known Australian tourist destination. The beach itself is well known in the Noosa area as being ‘clothing optional’ by convention although Queensland law does not permit nudist beaches. What is particularly notable is that feminists had held a protest entitled Free the Nipple in Brisbane a few months earlier when it is women, not men, who may walk around in Queensland naked.

Feminists have had significant naked public protests in Argentine (and Argentina again), France, Ukraine, and the US among others. In each of these cases police did not act. Two women went to Halloween parties in the US naked this year. Apparently, one said the costume was “naked human”. Neither drew the attention of law enforcement.

Meanwhile European artist Milo Moiré continues to walk around naked as a form of performance art and has painted in public with paint filled eggs dropped from her vagina. Moiré also allowed men and women to touch her breasts and genitals in public (no more than 30 seconds though!). She performed this in Germany and The Netherlands without incident but was, in a rare case of western police enforcing exposure laws against naked women, actually arrested in the UK.

Similar to Moiré, artist Deborah De Robertis believes that exposing her vulva during music recitals and near artwork and ancient buildings is a form of female empowerment. De Robertis is quoted as having said:

opening one’s vagina is opening one’s mouth.

Says it all really.

The cover image depicts a Femen protest in Paris, France. It is ironic that images of a protest are held to a higher standard of decency than the protest itself. This image is under the Free Art License.

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