It's not often that the government or one of its officials come to the rescue of an isolated incident involving a common citizen. But it happened in France and it involved the right to bare breasts.
It all started with two French police officers walking up to a small group of topless women sunbathing on a beach and asking them to cover up. The incident took place in the coastal resort of Sainte-Marie-la-Mer in south west France, near Perpignan and the two gendarmes were acting on a request from a family on the same beach.
This started an online frenzy on Twitter as netizens expressed their viewpoints about the topless women being well within their rights to bare their breasts at the beach. This led to #seinsnus, which means bare breasts, trend on Tuesday for a brief period.
As the conversation gained traction, France's interior minister decided to weigh in on the subject and give a piece of his mind to the acting officers. Gerald Darmanin said the police's regulation on female sunbathers was "unfounded."
"Freedom is a precious commodity. And it is normal that the administration recognize its errors," Darmanin tweeted, responding to the official police statement, which called the actions of the officers on August 20 as a "blunder."
It's not illegal
There is no national law that prevents women from going topless. But there are some municipalities that have independently banned monokini (bikini bottoms only), or thongs. Flouting the rules in such restricted areas can fetch a fine of €38.
But the Sainte-Marie-la-Mer doesn't have any such restrictions and the actions of the officer drew nationwide attention. Therefore the topless women could have refused to cover their breasts and be well within their rights to do so.