A French association with international scope, governed by the law of July 1, 1901 and the decree of August 16, 1901 is established in the current statutes, having for name: "Association Pour la Promotion du Naturisme en Liberté" with the acronym: APNEL.
APNEL is an association which adheres to the spirit and ethics of the ecological and naturist movements, with which it wishes to collaborate in close harmony. It works so that French law might catch up to the laws of its European neighbours in regard to the Right to be Naked.
The object of the association is as follows:To defend and promote naturism in liberty. The association works so that the article 222-32 of the French Penal Code might be clarified so that simple nudity is no longer likened sexual exhibition. It considers that to live naked is a fundamental human right which should be registered in the Constitution and in the other texts relative to human rights.
The association has a duty of legal support in the situation wherein one of its members might be unjustly apprehended in the course of his naturist activities. It will launch a fine-sharing collection (solidarinue) in each case having obtained the approval of the Board of Directors (Conseil d'Administration).
For several years the concept of naturism in liberty was evoked periodically on an internet discussion group. The underlying problem concerned unforeseen meetings between naturists and not naturists. Even although these meetings usually took place with no problem at all, the question of the legality of the practice of nudity outside of places specifically reserved for naturism caused many debates. Most of the followers of naturism in liberty consider that there is a gap in the French penal code, which while not explicitly forbidding simple nudity, does not explicitly authorize it.
The idea of creating a nationwide association of naturist walkers dates from April, 2006. The next month a proposal of statutes was discussed, but without the interested persons being able to agree on the exact terms to best enunciate certain concepts, for example the list of operating constraints addressed in the statutes.
The next autumn, two events boosted the interest for this kind of Association:
In the beginning of September, 2006, a single man was walking nude, with his shorts in his hand, in a forest in Essonne when from about fifty meters away, another person near a barn shouted at him "ça va pas!" (That's not allowed!) He just answered "si" (It is) before turning back without getting dressed again. Later, he was arrested by police who told him they were acting on complaint of a gamekeeper and he was told that the place was a gay Mecca.
At the police station a report was made accusing him of "public indecency" and "sexual exhibition". After the accused had explained his practice of naturism, and the existence of collectively organized naked walks, he was told that the Public Prosecutor had treated this affair as a final warning. Since this event, he has not dared to walk naked alone for fear of heavy penalties if he is caught again.
In December, 2006, a naturist of Seine-et-Marne took part in a television programme on the subject of modesty. After some filming at his home, he drove nude in his car with the television journalists. Being hungry, he stopped at the local Mac Donalds to order some food but without getting out of his car. After he had paid at the first window two cashiers approached and asked him if he was naked, which he confirmed. The journalists were filming the scene, which seemed to delight the cashiers. After he had parked his car to await the completion of his order two policemen arrived and arrested him roughly at gunpoint. He was, however, able to put on his shorts before getting out of the car. At the police station, he was told that on the complaint of three cashiers (one of whom was pregnant and had been attacked the previous week), he would be charged with "sexual exhibition in flagrante delicto on the public highway". Although he argued for a long time in the verbal process claiming in particular to having been only visible as bare-chested from the outside of his car, he was summoned the following month by the prosecutor who fined him €300 as settlement under the criminal law. Being unable to find a lawyer prepared to defend him in a possible trial, the accused, who is a state employee, chose to accept the verdict, which amounted to an admission of guilt.
Having heard of the above arrest, other members of the discussion group (randonue) organized a fine-sharing collection (solidarinue) to spread the payment of the fine between the maximum number of people. At a rate of 10 € per person approximately three times the amount required was collected in less than two months. A few hundred euros of support even came from Belgium.
The naturist who was fined did not profit from the collection. He also contributed €10 and decided to use the excess collected for the creation of APNEL of which he became the first president. Statutes very similar to the original were deposited in the sub-prefecture of Palaiseau in March, but it was not until June 2007, after the publication of the notice in the Gazette, that the birth of the Association for the Promotion of Naturism en Liberté was announced on the Internet.
However, the active phase of the life of the APNEL only began with the General Assembly in January 2008. For 2008, the association was administered by eight members, including seven French and one Belgian. A woman was elected President. Following the general assembly in 2009 the number of directors was increased to 12 with more regions represented. Since 2010, the association has over 150 members. It has been affiliated to the French Naturist Federation since April 2011.
During the summer of 2008 several newspapers devoted numerous articles to naturism in liberty. Over half of these articles made mention of APNEL and the problems it raises:Le Nouvel Observateur 24–30 July 2008,
Le Parisien (Ed Essonne) 27 July 2008,
Radio France International Visitors of the day with Caroline Lafargue, 27 August 2008,
Le Vif (Belgium) August 2008,
La Vie au Soleil August 2008,
Le Bien public 7 September 2008.
On Tuesday, 4 November 2008, the president of APNEL welcomed a host of the television channel, Téva, who came with her crew during a naturist meal. APNEL was cited during the introduction to the televised report.
On Tuesday, 11 November 2008, the newspaper Libération included a portrait of Sylvie Fasol, a woman suffering from bone problems involving periodic hospitalizations since childhood who, in a depressive mood after several deaths in her family was invited by her pharmacist to participate in a naturist walk (randonue). She felt very well accepted by the naturists and the practice of naturism gave her an opportunity to better accept her body, before engaging in the promotion of naturism in liberty from within APNEL which was widely quoted in the article.
As a result of this article one week later, Philippe Bouvard devoted a show "les grosse têtes" on RTL on the same subject. ·
On Friday, 22 May 2009, following a referendum prohibiting naturist hiking in a canton of Switzerland, a team of Swiss television came to investigate the problem of naturism in liberty during a naturist walk organized for them in the Forest of Fontainebleau.
In June 2009, it was the turn of the Monthly of Rennes to devote two pages to naturist hiking and APNEL, but the use of the term "a poil "(a deprecating term for nude which was often repeated in the article) did not please everybody.
On September 8, 2009 the show "Nude in Public for a Good Cause" on France Culture began by evoking naturist hiking and APNEL before addressing other situations where nudity is also practised
On November 12, 2010 the programme "Thalassa" on France 3 Television broadcast a documentary about naturism which included a report of a naturist walk in the Calanques (mountains near Marseille) with participants being mostly members of APNEL
Various events involving naked people were also an opportunity for members of APNEL to promote their association:Participation in an exhibition of naturism at Héliomonde,
Participation in World Naked Bike Rides (cyclonues) in London and Brighton after a cyclonue in Paris in 2009 was abandoned due to police repression,
Participation in a naked photo shoot in a vineyard organized by Greenpeace on October 3, 2009 with photographer Spencer Tunick.
This is one of the aims of the association, but no legislative work (like writing a bill) has yet been undertaken.
On the other hand, in 2009, one of the organizers of a naturist group in Provence made contact with the city of Seillans and obtained official permission for naturist walks in forests within the commune. A municipal order authorized two randonues on Sunday and Easter Monday with a municipal police officer to supervise them.
Also to be noted, in Marseille contacts with the Groupment d'Intérêt Public des Calanques, which envisages the creation of a national park of 12,500 hectares, resulted in naturism being an officially recognized activity without limitation throughout the whole massif outside of habitations, car parks and frequented trails.
In early 2008, APNEL organized a fine-sharing collection (solidarinue ) for a person who, having sunbathed naked next to his car parked beside a canal and then dressed himself, had to suddenly drop his trousers because of a health problem, was seen doing it from the other bank and fined by the court.
In the summer of 2009, even although all members of the association did not share their extreme commitment, certain officers of APNEL:visited Stephen Gough, imprisoned in Scotland after having crossed Great Britain naked. He continues to refuse any clothing during court hearings and is arrested and reimprisonned whenever he is released from jail. A collection of money and a postcard were also organized for Steve Gough's Christmas.
followed the issue of Irwin, living near the border between Spain and France and practicing naturism in both countries, who, after a conviction for being seen naked while putting out his garbage in the street, brought the matter before the European Court.
The year 2013 has been an opportunity to address the problem of vagueness of the law on sexual exhibition court. It all started in February when a teacher on vacation near La Roche- Chalais decided to walk around naked in a secluded forest area. It was seen by a lady who follows him, lady then raises the registration number of his car and made a report to the police.
The next day, the police will search up to his room and examine the files from his computer before turning into custody 21.
Prosecuted for indecent exposure, he refuses this term . Indeed, he chose a secluded place to walk naked and tried not to offend anyone . Besides the lady who denounced did not met . He contacted the APNEL 22 and obtained his support.
An appearance on prior recognition of guilt took place in May 2013. The accused denying the charge of indecent exposure, the case is referred to the court for a trial of Périgueux .
The trial took place on July 1, 2013. Several members of the APNEL came to support. This was an opportunity for the lawyer, Tewfik Bouzenoune, to ask a priority issue of constitutionality ( QPC = question prioritaire de constitutionalité ) because Article 222-32 of the Criminal Code is too imprecise for every citizen to know what is legal or non.23 24
Attorney ( the same as for the hearing of May ) does not seem wish the Constitutional Council has to consider the right to nudity. For him, given the case law of the Court of Cassation, the case is clear enough : If the accused walked around naked, he has not tried to show his nakedness. This is especially hidden in hearing a noise . Therefore, there has been no display . It considers that the court did not need to ask the opinion of the Constitutional Council for a verdict and requires relaxe25 .
The court gave its verdict September 11, 2013 : Rejection of the QPC, which will not be referred to the Constitutional Council, and relaxes the prévenu26 . If the teacher says relieved, however, he hopes that his trial have made progress freedoms . From the side of APNEL, a review of the priority issue of constitutionality was preferred, but lawyer believes that it can be raised again when another hiker naked will be prosecuted for a similar reason.
Until 1993 the penal code provided for the offense of "Indecent Exposure" that allowed easy suppression of simple nudity.
The new penal code which has since come into force only retains an offense of "Sexual Exhibition" (Article 222-32).
This latter is included in a chapter entitled "Sexual Assaults" which includes rape and other offenses (first article of the chapter), other acts of sexual violence, sexual exhibitionism (penultimate section) and finally, sexual harassment.
In the general opinion of naturists, simple nudity on its own can not be considered as a sexual assault. As for the exhibition aspect, it allows the whole body to be seen without highlighting a particular organ to which one might attribute a sexual nature.
However, the problems described above show that in case of a complaint, the people in charge of public authority often think in terms of the old offense of "Indecent Exposure" which is still mentioned in some printed editions of the new penal code.
It is for this reason that APNEL is not content with an "unspoken understanding" in the penal code concerning simple nudity, and it seeks official recognition of its legality.
Spain is the country of reference for naturists because it recognizes the right to nudity in its constitution. The reasoning relates to the Right to Image that allows everyone to show the self-image he desires. On the other hand, Spanish law provides for punishment of lewd acts, which approximates the sense that the French naturist give to "sexual exhibition". Simply, the Spanish law distinguishes between simple nudity (authorized and deemed not offensive) and the nudity of a sexual nature. Catalonia appears to be the Spanish province that best defends the right to nudity. In particular, the city of Barcelona which authorized nudity in the city.
However, on April 30, 2011, the Barcelona City Council voted a by-law forbidding walking "naked or nearly naked in public spaces" and limiting the wearing of bathing costumes to pools, beaches, adjacent streets and sea-side walks. Since then cases of nudity, very rare in the city, are liable for 300 to 500 euro fines. "This is a ban that over-rides laws that decriminalized nudity twenty-two years ago," says Jacit Ribas i Deix, president of the Association for Defence of the Right to Nudity.
In Navarre, during the protests against bullfighting in Pamplona officially announced as "naked", the authorities imposed (except maybe the first year) the wearing of a slip or a g-string.
In Portugal the right to nudity seems to have increased in recent years.
In Belgium, the situation seems similar to that of France, but the proximity of cities to each other does not facilitate naturism in liberty.
In Germany, being naked in nature does not pose a problem. However, in practice, the Germans use this right mostly for swimming, and much less for forest walks.
In Scandinavian countries, Denmark recognizes the right to nudity on the beaches and the coastal strip. This has not prevented the creation of naturist campsites in this country.
In Sweden, the custom of allemansrätten (the Right of Public Access), dating from the Middle Ages, provides interesting possibilities of life in nature but it did not anticipate the case of naturism. The latter has steadily declined since the 1970s. Wearing a bathing suit is common along the beaches and lakes frequented by the public. If there are instances of nudity, they are discreetly practiced. Collective nudity is common in saunas, showers and in swimming pools but in the latter case with separate male and female facilities. It is necessary, however, to wear a bathing costume to swim in the pool, but, as in France, some groups of women claim the right to bare breasts.
In the British Isles, England is fairly tolerant, whereas Scotland considers simple public nudity as a "breach of peace". Hence the legal troubles of Steve Gough previously mentioned.