- By Guy Hedgecoe
- BBC News, Madrid
Activists in Catalonia are celebrating after the government of the Spanish region informed its town and city halls that they must allow women to go topless in public swimming pools.
Going topless is enshrined under a 2020 Catalan equality law.
However, some municipal swimming pools have prevented the practice since the legislation was introduced, drawing dozens of complaints each summer.
Local authorities have now been told to bar any form of discrimination.
Preventing women from going topless “excludes part of the population and violates the free choice of each person with regard to their body”, the Catalan government’s department of equality and feminism informed them in a letter.
The document stated that local authorities had to “defend against discrimination for any motive… including sex or gender, religious convictions or dress”.
It also stipulated that breastfeeding should be allowed, as well as the use of full body bathing suits, which would include the Muslim “burkini”.
A spokesperson for the Catalan department of equality told Spanish media that the letter was simply “a reminder”, but that it was obligatory for municipalities to obey it.
The regional government, led by the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left (ERC), can in theory fine any town hall found to have breached the norm up to €500,000 (£430,000).
Many of the complaints filed against town halls where going topless has not been allowed have been members of a feminist group called Mugrons Lliures (Free Nipples).
“This is a gender equality issue: Men could [go topless] and women couldn’t,” said Mariona Trabal, spokesperson for the group.
“We don’t know why they have taken so long, but we are very happy,” she added, regarding the letter.
The topless issue has also been a hot topic away from Spain’s swimming pools.
On Saturday, organisers of a Pride event in the southern city of Murcia covered the torso of the singer Rocío Saiz with an LGBTQ flag after she took to the stage topless. After her performance, she said she had been questioned by local police.