Where nudists remain behind closed doors, in private apartments, clubs or ghettoes, the law is largely of no concern. However, when nudists come out into the public arena, there may be some conflict of interests. Although one might expect variations, it may be useful here to point out some of the most typical scenarios, for reference purposes and historical value. In very few countries in the entire world is there any actual law designed to address nakedness, let alone public nudity, itself. In most countries local laws are interpreted in such a way as to be applicable to public nudity. The actual interpretation and application of these laws varies widely from place to place and time to time. The actual text of several statutes, and some discussion of how asinine these themes may be, can be found via our links collection. See also one British magistrate's opinion on a point of law that streaking and public nudity ("independent" link lost).

Interestingly, it seems that when there is a large group of naked people, or when it's an art "installation" or event police tend to leave them alone. Contrast the various treatments of single people and groups . Take a look too, at the difference between the French and British police response to the WNBR in 2008 and the WNBR's Culturual and Legal Precedent. Clearly the message is that we should all get naked more often, and in self-protecting large-enough groups so as to be left in peace, all around the world. A Dressing Down

Remember that the police are paid to enforce the law. They are not paid, or qualified, to interpret the law themselves or to define them in any way whatsoever, no matter what they might say. Judges are the only people who may interpret a given law, which law has been defined by the appropriate governmental department, usually (but not always) after some serious deliberation.

Naked Legal Abuse

Across the many cultures on the planet Earth, there are basically 2 laws, or variations thereof, which are commonly used against naked people. There are of course others, but these are the most commonly (ab)used:

1. Indecent Exposure

A naked male may be arrested for the sexually oriented criminal offence of Indecent Exposure. Almost never used against a female, this law is designed specifically to catch those males who pull their erect penis out of their otherwise clothed person and waggle it aggressively in front of unsuspecting, quite rightly shocked and probably upset, women. The precise wording of the text usually expresses this explicitly, and is not applicable to nudists who happen to be in a so-called public area, although it may sometimes be (ab)used to apply in these cases. German equivalent would be StGB. 183.

2. Breach of the Peace or Being a Public Nuisance...

That old catch-all. This relatively minor, or common, law can be used by anybody, to apply to anything of which someone does not approve, if they have legal or police power behind them. This is the last bastion of defense for a legal system, or some form of police state, desperate to find some way of curtailing personal freedom, and can be applied to almost any situation. German equivalent would be OWiG. 118.

Final Warning

Always remember that it is inevitable that each and every pub, lounge, gasthof, drinking bar, or any place of congregation (...), will have their very own self-appointed legal expert. They may even be able to specialize on the subject relating to nudists, all the more so in the case of public nudity, where people may have a strong opinion usually based on erroneous facts. Novelty value may sometimes appear equivalent with legal expertise. When weighing the value of local opinion, note that practising judges, counsels and lawyers, often spend perhaps seven (7) years studying general law, before specialising... Remember - no-one is saying the rules above should not exist, for the purpose for which they were explicitly written, just that their day-to-day application, particularly as regards nudity, needs some serious revision.