In Depth

Nudists call for protection against hate crimes

British Naturism says abuse of recreational nudists should be outlawed

Naturists say they regularly face hostility and even abuse – and they want protection under hate crime laws.

The call came from British Naturism, a non-profit group founded in its modern form in 1964, which promotes being naked in public. The group’s president, Mark Bass, told the Mail on Sunday they want naturism recognised legally as a “philosophical belief”.

Bass said: “These days we all agree that shouting abuse at somebody because of the colour of their skin, their sexual preference or their religion is not acceptable. Yet naturists still receive that type of abuse based on their dress code.”

He added: “We are not asking that people should be forced to be naked. But everybody should have the freedom to choose how they dress, including if that choice is to wear nothing at all.”

What does the law say?

Naturists are clear that “the law is on our side”, Bass wrote last summer. In recent years, the Crown Prosecution Service has issued guidelines telling police that nudity “is not itself criminal if there is no sexual content or intent”, said Bass.

That ruling meant naturists were able to call for police protection last year when there were threats to disrupt some events including mass “naked swims”, he added.

The group says that recognition that nudity was not in itself criminal has also “been endorsed by employment tribunals”.

What do naturists want?

The group wants to have naturism legally identified as a “philosophical belief”, claiming this would give its members more protection. It would mean that attacks on naturists could be counted as hate crimes.

In 2019, Bass wrote: “Getting Naturism specifically recognised as a protected characteristic would remove any possible dispute and demonstrate that there is government backing of our position.”

Bass said one naturist had recently had a dog set on him, says the Mail, and added it was “not uncommon” for naturists to receive abuse from “a neighbour or when out walking”.

What happened in Crewe?

There was a protest at a pool in Crewe at the weekend against an annual naked swim event, 12 months after the same campaigners tried unsuccessfully to have it stopped.

Emma Hadaway, from Crewe, started a petition against the event that was signed by 5,000 people, says the Manchester Evening News. She told the paper the swimming session would be a “massive safeguarding issue” with “children being naked around adults neither their parents or themselves know”.

British Naturism pointed out the swim was open to members only – no one could walk in off the street to take part – and added: “We take our safeguarding and health and safety responsibility seriously and review and adapt our practices in advance of every event we run.”

The group noted that: “Naturist family swimming has been in existence for decades in the UK and there are naturist families into their third generation. We have a robust child and vulnerable adults safeguarding policy.”

Writing in 2016, British Naturism campaign director Malcolm Boura said that “prudery is a form of child abuse, just less directly and less obviously so”.

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Surrey Live reported in January that a new sports centre in Alton, Hampshire, had decided to ban a monthly naked swim event which had been held in the building it replaced for more than 30 years.

The group of naked swimmers held their last gathering on 5 January before the old sports centre closed. British Naturism said in a statement that the decision by operators Everyone Active to ban the group was “discriminatory” and “misguided”.

Everyone Active had insisted that the new centre’s windows were too large, with the pool “visible from a number of viewpoints”.

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