Should attacks on nudism be treated as a hate crime?

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British Naturism (BN) define Naturism simply as “the practice of going without clothes”. The group unite and represent practising naturists across the UK and their primary aim is to “make social nudity acceptable” across Britain. The group promote several health benefits they associate with nudism. They believe that by removing one’s clothes, one can also remove their “worries, stresses and hang-ups about their body”.

With over 8000 members, BN is committed to ensuring members and all UK naturists are treated fairly. That they are allowed to enjoy their lifestyle freely through staunch campaigning. The group’s main concerns are legal ambiguity towards naturism, media pressure surrounding body image and media censorship due to society’s over-sexualisation of the naked body.

Many naturists practice their lifestyle in private or designated areas. However, some wish to do so among the general population and in public spaces. This proposes a legal challenge to naturism in the UK due to laws such as the Sexual Offences Act (2003) as clause 66 states an individual can be arrested for intentionally exposing their genitals. The Act also states an individual can be arrested for doing so with the ‘intention to cause alarm and distress’. Thus, currently, there is no UK law representing naturists.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) aims to have a “consistent approach to naturism to retain public confidence in the CPS.” The CPS states that as long as there is no sexual context or threatening behaviour on behalf of the naturist in a public space, then no action will be taken against them.

However, there has not always been fairness in the law towards naturists. In 2012, Professor David Dunstan, a practising naturist, claimed he was the victim of “institutional prejudice” by the police after he was arrested by police whilst they searched for a naked cyclist exposing himself to young girls. Dunstan said he was made to feel like a criminal. He was questioned heavily about his lifestyle by police and had legal naturist images seized from his home. This is not a one-off. The treatment of Dunstan and countless other naturists by the law does not reflect the consistent and fair approach the CPS claims British authorities have.

Written by POI Correspondent, Emer Kelly

Nudity can lay bare injustices – Labour Article

When I was a child holidaying in Center Parcs with my family, my Dad thought it would be a nice idea to go on a bike ride to a “nature park”. Little did we know that the nature park was actually space for naturists to practice nudism secluded away. My first encounter with the idea of nudism as a lifestyle although accidental proved to be one that has stuck in my mind.

Humorous anecdote aside, I think there are many clear grounds for allowing and accommodating for alternative lifestyles such as naturism.

Firstly, teenagers and children have already been exposed to partially or completely nude images through the internet and especially pornography. Over half of 11-13-year-olds, for example, have reported seeing it. Many children might grow up with inadequate sex education in school. Or may have warped ideas about what the ideal body type looks like.

These harmful ideas can carry on into later life, with men reporting higher levels of dissatisfaction with their penis sizes compared to their partner’s assessment.  A society that is more permissive about nudism as a lifestyle would encourage people to no longer be ashamed of their bodies.

Furthermore, as art historian John Berger said about the European tradition of nude paintings, “there’s a great difference between seeing oneself naked… and a body being put on display”. Oil paintings of nude figures and indeed the poised stances of Instagram models show a type of nudity that is exhibitionist. It is designed for the enjoyment of the presumed heterosexual male gaze. Nakedness is a sharp contrast to this as it reveals the human body in its everyday vulnerability.

Being seen as naked may provide a counter to the dominant ideas given to us through society. Greater emphasis placed on the everyday, mundane aspect of nudity could help to foster greater acceptance of body types that don’t conform to conventional standards of beauty.

While nudity should obviously be an optional lifestyle choice, nakedness can be a powerful tool to draw attention towards injustices. Nakedness, when it was used by the economist Victoria Bateman, drew attention to how women were written out of economic history. This shows that nakedness can be used to counter-narratives that advertisers want to sell to young women. As well as highlighting social justice issues.

We are constantly exposed to advertising that sells back to people a cure for the problems it creates around body image. A growing acceptance of people as they are without any clothes on could help to overcome this mode of thinking.

Written by Labour writer, Jack Walton

Point of Information

Nudism can be encouraged without protection under hate crime – a Conservative response

It is true that many problems in society stem from the issues of lack of body positivity. I agree with Mr. Walton, increased acceptance of nudism in society could increase this.

There is the possibility that this could have the opposite but if you have ever watched the programme Naked Attraction you may be inclined to see the positive affect of nudism.When I first watched the programme there was an expectation that what will be pointed out are the contestant’s imperfections. To my pleasant surprise this was not the case. Instead it gives those people a boost in self-confidence, as the person chooses complements each of them in different ways. An increase in nudity may have a similar effect on society.

Nudism is not the only way though. Critics of nudism do have genuine concerns that should not just be pushed to one side. There are less controversial alternative options that can increase body positivity and self-esteem. Simply encouraging others to embrace their body would have a significant effect; we are all too judgemental and if we ever want to fix the problem we all need to be more positive.

In saying this, I still believe that it cannot be covered by the same rights as hate crime. Nudism may be an answer, but there are still legitimate reasons to want to deny it; those that do should not be prosecuted as partaking in hate crime.

Written by Chief Conservative writer, Fletcher Kipps

Must be careful not to water down hate crime – Conservative Article

This is a clear example of the friction that exists under the Human Rights Act (1998) regarding freedom of expression. In making a judgement on the topic I am guided by the advice imposed upon us by the law. On one hand, the bill favours the individual who wishes to express themselves through nudity; the other, favouring the one using freedom of speech to criticise the nudist individual. Adding the Sexual Offences Act (2003) only adds to this issue’s tension.

According to the Sexual Offences Act, it is only a crime if genitals are exposed with intent to alarm or distress someone. In most instances, this is not the case. Naturalists don’t intend on alarming anyone. Yet, they do add weight to the fact that their identity through nudism should come above the potential to distress another.

This is not to suggest in the slightest that they are committing an offence. It does lend itself to fact that they might be prepared to though. If hate crimes are extended to those that are critical of nudists this may enable nudists to take the law to a questionable level.

There is no place for bullying or hate against anyone. In saying this we must ensure that we are not mistaking bullying by the few for a hate crime by the many. We associate hate crime with racism amongst other key issues a lot bigger than nudism affecting larger percentages of the population.

People may have genuine concerns that may alarm them; from hygiene, offence and potential concerns with paedophiles/perverts. The protection of health and safety are legal reasons for the freedom of expression not to be exercisable. Those against this do have a case to speak out against them and exercise freedom of speech. This must be considered when deciding if attempts to block nudism can be contemplated as hate speech.

Many have fought tirelessly in recent history to ensure hate crime is recognised by the law. There is the correct subsequent punishment for this. Therefore, I find it difficult to advocate for the expansion of the hate crime criteria without the highest critic. We must consider whether this hate is by one group of society to another. And, that it exists enough to provide evidence that these are not isolated incidents of bullying. Bullying is nasty, and something that should be eradicated from society, but that it differs from hate crime. If such protection was granted to nudists we would see those who vocally disagree with nudists in the same boat as racists, sexists and homophobes.

Written by Chief Conservative writer, Fletcher Kipps

Point of Information

Hate crime protection may be too excessive, a revealing article – a Labour response

Mr Kipps has uncovered a great deal in his response. I see no reason why the police should interfere with the lifestyles of naturists if they have yet to commit any offences. I have been guided by the idea of limiting the scope of peoples actions only if they violate the harm principle, and it is clear to me that naturists should be accommodated by the law to practice their lifestyle.

This is the idea that actions by individuals should be limited if they cause harm to others. A law that governed the conduct of naturists and clarified what is permissible in the public sphere would go a long way to clear misconceptions people have about naturists and reduce unnecessary police intervention.

Although I have not come into contact with many people who are arguing for hate crime protection for naturists, I agree with Mr Kipps that it would be a step in the wrong direction. Whilst there should be protections from the law for people to practice alternative lifestyles, invoking hate crime to protect a lifestyle choice such as naturism seems too extreme.

If hate crime protection was extended to naturists, then I would be worried about the implications this would have in setting a legal precedent.  If naturists are harmed by false information spread about their lifestyle, then they should seek to other channels such as defamation to protect their reputations.

Written by Labour writer, Jack Walton

Jack Walton
Labour political writer at | Website

My beliefs in libertarian socialism were adopted gradually. Since a child I was immersed in the language of social justice and liberal politics from my membership of a progressive Jewish youth movement.

Fletcher Kipps
Chief Conservative political writer at | Website

I am an incoming third year undergraduate currently studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Exeter. I am socially liberal, fiscally conservative editor here at POI. I have been fascinated by politics for many years, from PMQs to late night election results all which has led to the desire to study this at university.

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