A scantily clad group of female protesters drew a heavily breathing gaggle of journalists and cell-phone wielding onlookers to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. The protest was not meant to draw attention to another corruption scandal, police killing, or unwanted hike in transit fares, rather demand women’s right to sunbathe topless, a cause that most of the onlookers appeared to support.
It’s not a fake issue. It might come as a surprise, but it’s illegal for women to show their breasts in public. The offense is punishable by three months to a year in prison under Brazil’s penal code. Men, on the other hand, are free to go topless, a contradiction that irks protest organizer Karla Klemente.
“Here there are woman that use really skimpy bikinis, but it’s prohibited to go topless,” Klemente, a dance instructor complained.
“We want to legalize the natural female body. It’s not a sexual concept, we’re trying to challenge society’s prejudices and the taboos when it comes to a woman’s body.”
None of the 20 or so to topless protesters were arrested. About 50 other women participated by wearing pro-topless TV shirts.
For a day, the taboo was successfully challenged, but event founder Ana Paula Nogueira says there is still a long way to go before they achieve women’s liberation.
“It’s a cultural question. Brazil doesn’t have a topless culture, and we’re only going to change it over time,” she insisted. “But if we don’t keep trying, insisting, we’ll never get there.”