Judge Juliano ruled to close the Necochea case

A misdemeanours judge, Mario Juliano, has ruled that sunbathing topless on a public beach is not a violation of the law. Accordingly, he closed the case concerning the three women who were reprimanded by about 20 police officers on a beach in Necochea last weekend. Videos of the women went viral after the incident and have now inspired countrywide topless protests.

The judge’s ruling echoed the thoughts of many people around the country who were shocked by the seemingly disproportionate police operation that took place when another beach goer alerted officers to a situation of “exhibitionism” on the beach in Necochea. The judge took issue with Decree Law 8031, and particularly Article 70, which was invoked in this case and penalizes “obscene acts” that affect “public decency”, as being “archaic” and “unconstitutional”. It hasn’t, after all, been reformed for the better part of half a century (since 1973), while society has moved on considerably since the mid-20th Century.

Speaking to Página12, Judge Juliano said, “It’s an utterly anachronistic regulation.” He added in his verdict that a constitutional contradiction “lies in the imprecision and vagueness of the terms used by the law (obscenity and public decency), which makes it impossible for people to know the limits of what is punishable and unpunished.”

As a result, the judge considered in his ruling that the occasion warranted further state intervention, that it should “not only be limited to merely filing the proceedings”, so he requested that the Buenos Aires Legislature analyze the possibility of reforming the Code of Faults (the decree in question).

He also made recommendations to the Police Headquarters, advising that, in the case of similar incidents involving topless sunbathers on local beaches and at demonstrations for or against this practice, they should “ensure intervention that prioritizes guaranteeing freedom of expression and the exercise of rights, within a framework of peace and coexistence that avoids violent expressions.”

In other words, if the police authorities react to the judge’s recommendations positively – which is not a given – from now on (in theory at least) Buenos Aires cops should act to protect women’s rights to bear breasts on the beach and avoid those dreaded bikini top tan lines. Positive steps.

According to the judge, the act of sunbathing topless is not a harmful one and does not affect third parties: “if it annoys someone they can look away.”

Meanwhile, as many will be waiting eagerly for a response from the provincial legislature, the next few days will see numerous “tetazos” (topless protests) take place across the country. The demonstrations kick off tomorrow in the city of Corrientes, then move to Necochea on Saturday, and Rosario and Mar del Plata on Tuesday. The main event will be held at the Buenos Aires Obelisk at 5pm on Tuesday and, according to Facebook, will see thousands of women gather together to condemn machismo and express their authority over their own bodies.

The Necochea case has not only received support, however. There has been vast backlash on social media too, with many expressing affront at the idea that women should be able to reveal their nipples on a public beach and others trying to equate the act to men flashing their genitalia. One offended individual has even created an event in response to the protests taking place over the next few days, in which men will apparently strip naked at the obelisk to “fight for men’s rights.” According to the event page, over 8,000 people have said they are attending so far.