Sunday, May 1, 2011

Just in time for summer, Barcelona bans bikini wearers, shirtless men and nudists from its streets

Make sure to wear a shirt if you want to walk around in the stifling heat of Barcelona this summer, or you may pay dearly for it -- up to 300 euros!

Just in time for the tourist rush, the Spanish city known for its beaches and relaxed lifestyle has prohibited not only public nudity, but also the wearing of bathing suits away from swimming areas.

Beset by the hotelier and merchant lobby, who have protested for years that tourists walking around town with exposed torsos give Barcelona a bad image, the city council on Friday approved new legislation to prohibit and punish those who go down the street naked, bare-chested or in a bikini. The measure, which goes into effect next month, was approved just four weeks before municipal elections.

How the law will work

Complete nudity will only be allowed on Barcelona's officially recognized nude beach, Mar Bella, which is the only one in the city that has sand dunes, making it a somewhat secluded spot. Going shirtless or wearing swim-suits will be allowed only at pools, beaches and surrounding areas, such as the Paseo Maritimo stretching along the Mediterranean. Doing so anywhere else in the  city, including while strolling along the emblematic Las Ramblas boulevard or having refreshments at a sidewalk cafe, could result in a fine larger than the 200 euros one has to pay for running a red light: between 300 and 500 euros for going naked, and 120 to 300 for not wearing a shirt. In practice, local police will not fine transgressors immediately: nudes and semi-nudes alike will first receive a warning and an invitation to cover up. Fines will only be given to those who refuse to cooperate or who are caught again for the same violation.

Barcelona's police officers will probably easily recognize nudity when they see it, but how will they determine semi-nudity and its appropriateness? What is the difference between a woman wearing a bikini bathing suit and one wearing a pair of skimpy shorts with a bikini halter top? How far can a shirtless guy walk from the beach before being considered indecent? What happens if while a police officer is fining a bikini-wearing, shirtless couple who wander into a neighborhood near a beach, a sweaty construction worker without a shirt carries a heavy object out of building-site onto the street?

Barcelona on the cutting edge

While at least two other Spanish municipalities have passed legislation banning nudity, none have gone so far as to outlaw semi-nudity. In 2008 Alicante established fines ranging from 751 to 1500 euros for pubic nudity. The city of Las Palmas published an edict in 2004 stating that "nudity, when practiced in places of public transit, practiced en masse, or improperly, is no longer natural and becomes exhibitionism forced on others." Since there was apparently no fine or other punishment prescribed, I'm not sure how nude-free Las Palmas is today. But Barcelona's streets may soon be free of bikinis, swimming trunks and a few tourists.

Maybe next the city council will spend some time and money cracking down on another worrisome group of people who tend to freely wander Barcelona's streets, as well as its beaches: pick-pockets and purse-snatchers.

Cross posted on Newsvine.

El destape urbano, non grato (Urban nudity, non grata) - La Razón (with video report)
No es un biquini, es un 'top' (It's not a bikini, it's a 'top') - El País

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