Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil: Few women attend Rio topless ban protest

Rio topless ban protest
Image caption Brazilian authorities say they are considering changes to legislation that bans topless sunbathing

A protest in Brazil against a decades-old ban on topless sunbathing has failed to attract more than a dozen women.

Instead, hundreds of photographers and men turned up for the event on Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema beach.

More than 2,000 women had said they would take their tops off on the beach on Saturday morning to call for the law to be scrapped.

Organisers say most women probably felt too intimidated to join the protest.

Protesters say Brazilian legislation, which defines beach topless as an obscene act, is anachronistic and hypocritical.

Image caption The few women who went ahead with the topless protest were outnumbered by journalists and male beach-goers

They argue that nudity is tolerated during the annual carnival parade in Rio.

"It's a false-Puritanism and indicative of our macho culture that we have a law forbidding that a woman can go topless," Olga Salon told the Associated Press news agency.

She was one of the few women who went ahead with the protest and took her top off before a crowd of photographers and male beach-goers.

The organiser, Ana Rios, said the idea was to raise awareness to the prejudice against women in Brazil.

Image caption A group of men backed up the women's protest and denounced "sexist legislation"

"It is a pity it became a media circus. What really amazes me is the number of men who came here just to see women's chests," she said.

The movement began after Brazilian actress Cristina Flores was approached by local policemen during a photo session.

She says they threatened to arrest her if she did not agree to put her top on.

"I didn't even know it was illegal when I did it," she said.

A 1940s law says going topless on the beach is punishable with three months to a year in jail or a fine.

The harsh penalties are rarely enforced, but topless sunbathing is not tolerated on most Brazilian beaches.

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