A law that prohibits nudism in Barcelona’s beaches and public spaces came into force on 29 April 2011.
Any tourist or local who fails to follow this law will receive a warning and has to dress immediately. If the person fails to dress the punishment is a fine that could range between 120 and 500 Euros (£105 – £450).
Joaquim Plana, president of the Catalan Naturism Club, said “nudism is a right and people should be able to choose. It is a shame that it is forbidden as it is an emblem of Barcelona.”
The Spanish Federation of Naturism, FEN, sued the council of Barcelona asking for the removal of this prohibition, on July 13.
Nudism has caused a lot of controversy in Barcelona. There are two opposite sides to the debate. The naturist society defends nudism arguing that it is a right and that it doesn’t hurt anyone. Others, such as the mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, disagree: “While it is acceptable to practise nudism in some spaces, like nudist beaches, it is not acceptable to have naked people walking around the streets.”
It all began in 2005 with the draft of a city ordinance called “Convivencia Ciudadana” (Peaceful Coexistence), with an article stipulating that nudism in Barcelona was forbidden. This triggered outrage from naturists and human rights defenders who argue that the decision of what to wear was personal and that it has nothing to do with the law.
The council decided to remove the ban on nudism from the ordinance and by doing that it was inferred that nudity was legal. The Ordinance of Peaceful Coexistence finally came into force in January 24, 2006.
“That day everyone was so happy; my friends and I went completely naked around the streets of Barcelona, celebrating the apparent legality of nudism,” said anthropologist Joan Roura.
Since then there has been a lot of debate around this issue. In 2010 there were plans to introduce some amendments to the ordinance of Peaceful Coexistence.
Those who were against nudity in public spaces took advantage of the opportunity by adding an amendment banning nudism in all public spaces.
The division extended to regional and national politicians, as some like Jordi Portabella, the leader of the ERC party, argued that the council of Barcelona “have more serious problems, like the economic crisis and its effects on our citizens, to be worrying about how people should dress.”
The spokeswoman of the republican party, Ester Capella, said that it was pointless to add this amendment to the ordinance as no more than three people practise nudity in the streets of Barcelona.
Joan Roura added: “during the years that nudism was ‘legal’, not many people walked naked on the streets. Some did, of course, but most people dressed normally and kept their nudity to the beach.”
Roura added, “There is one particular nudist who is well known in Barcelona. Everyone calls him ‘The Tripod’. He has many tattoos and a piercing hanging off his penis. Whenever he walks the streets everyone stops to look at him and take pictures because he is impossible to ignore.”
The Tripod’s real name is Esteban (no last name given for privacy reasons). At 67, he is the most famous nudist of Barcelona. In 2007 he was fined 80 Euros for public nudity. Esteban ignored the orders of the urban guard to get dressed and the guards filed a charge for contempt.
The judge’s sentence said: “The defendant mistakenly thought that only he has rights, in this case of walking completely naked, ignoring that the rest of the public also has the right not to see him naked.”
The new law not only states that it is forbidden to practice nudism in public spaces but also to practice semi-nudism, which means that it is not allowed to be bare-chested in public spaces.
On this matter Roura said: “this is very silly as this is a coastal city, you expect people to walk bare-chested.
“After this law came into force the urban guard has had to stop joggers to ask them to put their shirt on. On sunny days the urban guard has to compel people taking the sun in a park to get fully dressed.”