France’s interior minister has defended the “precious” right to sunbathe topless after police asked a group of women to cover up at a beach on the country’s south coast.
The women were approached by two officers while they soaked up the sun in Sainte-Marie le Mer on 20 August, resulting in backlash in France and on social media.
Interior minister Gerald Darmanin disagreed with the actions of the officers, tweeting: “It was unfounded when two women were reproached for their clothing on the beach.
“Freedom is a precious asset.”
An official statement was released by the local Pyrenees-Orientales police, explaining that officers were trying to calm the mood after a family of holidaymakers complained.
They were said to have been embarrassed by the situation due to children being present.
The force said: “Guided by a desire for appeasement, the police asked the people concerned if they would agree to cover their chest after they explained the reason for their approach.”
The statement described the mediation by the officers as “clumsy”, and clarified that sunbathing topless is not forbidden in the area.
Police spokeswoman Maddy Scheurer said the incident was a “blunder”.
“You will always see me in uniform, but the practice of topless tanning is allowed at the beach of Sainte-Marie-la-Mer,” she said on Twitter.
Topless sunbathing is legal in France, but local authorities can implement clothing rules in specific areas.
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