Pages

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Screw the law, let's get naked!

To what extent should the law regulate how we dress?

At one extreme, there is the proposal by Conservative MP Phillip Hollobone that Islamic full-face veils (specifically, the niqab and the burqa) be prohibited.



And at the other extreme, Steve Gough, the "Naked Rambler", is currently serving a 21 month sentence for "contempt of court", the latest of a number of legal sanctions which he has endured.



Mr Gough's series of legal problems seem to arise not from any law that actually bans nakedness, but by the use of laws regarding "breaching the peace" and "contempt of court".


But should it be a legal matter at all?

The decision as to how one wishes to present oneself to the world can be regarded as a private matter and (sometimes) a public matter.

It is a private matter in that how (or, indeed, if) one dresses is a matter fundamental to one's sense of personal autonomy.

It is perhaps a public matter in that one's appearance can be an exercise of one's right to free expression; it is also, arguably, a public matter as other people may not wish to see how one is dressed (a burqa) or not dressed (nakedness).

In both its private and public aspects, the liberal starting point is that an individual should be able to do what they want, unless there is a wider public interest in them not doing so.

And, in my view, mere offence is not sufficient to rebut the presumption in favour of individual autonomy in the case of either a burqa or a naked rambler.

But what is sufficient?

Or should there be no rules at all?


Steve Gough has reportedly been told that he may spend the rest of his life in prison.

Presumably, a prohibtion on wearing a burqa would have the same practical effect, and a determined burqa wearer would face similar punishments and incarceration.

What has happened to Steve Gough and what could happen to a burqa wearer under prohibition is surely more offensive to any sensible person than nakedness or a full-face veil.


Steve Gough is still in prison: his official website is here, with details of how you can write to him in support.

(I owe the title of this blogpost to a suggestion by @rengox on Twitter.)


COMMENTS MODERATION

No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.

40 comments:

Elrik Merlin said...

It seems to me that there are situations when there should be regulations (if not laws per se) which cover clothing - for example in environments where *not* wearing something might be dangerous (such as safety clothing); or on the other hand, where *wearing* something might prevent you from doing a job or task properly (I doubt if you could teach a class effectively in a burqa for example). Beyond that, I suspect there is little case for the State to be involved.

That being said, I can imagine there are people who object to seeing naked bodies. In any case where you have a "freedom to" do something, there may also be the need for a corresponding "freedom from" that has to be balanced with it.

Does such a balance require the law to intervene? Probably not in the case of public clothing. Apart from anything else, public feeling on issues like this shifts with time and a legal snapshot of it is immediately out of date.

My temptation is to suggest that naked rambling, for example, is fine unless you get complaints from the majority of the population. What you do if that's the case is another matter that I do not yet have an answer for.

chris said...

So what sensible reason is there for someone to be able to tell someone what to wear? Now for my Idiot MP it seems to be that the Bigot vote is something to chase, but pursuing a man who happens to want to wander around naked hardly seems a productive use of time for anyone involved.

Alex and Becki Weatherall said...

Steve Gough's incarceration is due primarily to a "breach of the peace" which in Scottish Law can include "mooning" or "streaking". As far as I'm aware, in England it isn't possible to be convicted of BOP (even though you can be held or arrested). Not so in Scotland.

What I find amazing is that this man may be incarcerated effectively life if he insists on leaving prison without any clothes on, as he will be re-arrested. But does he then have to be convicted in a court again? And again... and again?

It seems an outrageous waste of time, money and a man's life. Let him be.

I note contrast (but without drawing any parallels because there aren't really any to draw) to the release of Al Megrahi a year ago on compassionate grounds.

It doesn't seem very compassionate to threaten this man with indefinite incarceration for not wearing any clothes.

pop said...

I think this is worth reading - it says he may spend the rest of his life in prison if he doesn't wear clothes.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/6977441/Naked-rambler-faces-life-in-prison.html

If Brighton can have naked bike ride with out much fuss, it is terribly sad that a man can go rambling in his birthday suit north of the border.

Daniel C said...

There is of course another question, that I would be interested to hear JoK's view on: In addition to legal restrictions on dress, to what extent should the law allow others to restricts one's right to wear a full face veil, or appear naked? Specifically I am thinking of employers or land/business owners on their property.

Whilst I would never support any legal ban on the veil in the UK, there is a very strong case to allow (for example) banks to ban the wearing of a veil whilst carrying out business inside, or other businesses that also already ban motorcycle helmets for identity/CCTV reasons.

As written above, there are professions in which could hinder an effective job from being done - teaching being an excellent example. I would say most employers should be free to require their employees to not cover their face.

Niklas said...

What has happened to Steve Gough and what could happen to a burqa wearer under prohibition is surely more offensive to any sensible person than nakedness or a full-face veil.

Absolutely spot on. His treatment is plainly disproportionate, a concept that should be more important in deciding how laws are written.

I wouldn't like to see people walking around naked in the street but I would feel much worse if I was locking them up for it.

Graeme Archer said...

I hadn't thought of the naked rambler, but the proposal to ban burqas made me reflect on my own desire for a bit more freedom to be naked:

http://conservativehome.blogs.com/centreright/2010/07/what-not-to-wear.html

The conclusion I came to was that this isn't an area for the law, at all (but neither can we demand that other people react to our chosen style in a manner other than their own choosing).

It's a disgrace the naked rambler is in prison - thank you for highlighting that and for linking to his support site.

Lloyd Jenkins said...

I'm with you as far as the issue with offence: that can never be a good reason to regulate conduct.

I've often struggled to justify anti-nudity laws, and the best I've ever come up with is this: legalising public nudity could easily open the door to particularly unpleasant sexual conduct. "Flashing", for example, would be a mere change of on acceptable form of attire for another. It'd be difficult to condemn an employer who demanded that his secretary take notes whilst he walks -erect- around the desk.

I suppose that whilst dress is a private matter, sexual arousal cannot be: it is both visible to other people and intimately involves them. That, I think, justifies the involvement of the state. Nevertheless, there is little justification for the state's involvement beyond requiring that particular organs be covered. Does that make any sense?

Rob said...

Is the case of the burqa as clear cut?

Do the women who wear it always make that choice themselves? If not then we're weighing one freedom against another.

Dan Sutton said...

I can't help thinking that if men wore burkas & women rambled naked there would be no fuss made at all.

The Scots law of Breach of the Peace is a common law offence. The actus reus is an action that caused then lieges fear, alarm or the temptation to make reparation out of their own hand. It's a pretty broad catch all offence at its widest and as a common law offence of the same class as murder, culpable homicide or rape carries a maximum sentence of life.

A prohibition on (male) public nudity can only be justified on the grounds of the apprehension of sexual threat. There is an argument for a right for peaceable enjoyment of public space without the shadow of sexual violence. The offence being not that you offer a sexual threat but that you create resonable apprehension of it in other people.

Does the same argument extend to women wearing a veil over their face? I'm not sure. One could argue that covered faces create an apprehension of some threat.

A further question is one of civil law. If your excessive nudity or clothing is not a criminal matter but makes uncomfortable do I have to do bissines with you?

Dan (@danieldwilliam)

msHedgehog said...

Britons should have the right to run the London Marathon or attend a Test Match either naked or wearing a burqa. Or indeed naked under a burqa.

If I don't like someone's hairstyle or face style, it's open to me to ridicule her for punkish teenage attention-seeking, gaucheness, rudeness, bad taste or triviality, but I don't feel the British can afford, under any conditions, to regulate dress sense.

And banning nudity is even sillier. Naked protest, naked rites of passage (hello, stag nights), and naked attention-seeking in general are folk traditions of immemorial antiquity. Many of our ancestors considered nudity the only proper and manly clothing for swimming, sports, and even war.

Fashion is a matter of good manners, not law.

This is Too Silly. Stop it at once!

Adam said...

Rob, the issue of whether an individual woman chooses to where a burqa is a different one. What is under question here is the freedom to wear or not wear what one *chooses*. Even most libertarians of my acquaintance would acknowledge that it is included in the role of the state to intervene to protect and individual from force, and when someone is being forced, even indirectly, to adopt certain modes of dress against their will then I think there is a strong case to be made for defending their liberty to where what they choose. Which brings us round to... :-)

Guy Chapman said...

It seems to em that the idea of continually prosecuting someone for conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace, in the absence of any evidence of the peace ever having been breached despite his having engaged in the same conduct for an extended period, raises some serious questions about the legitimacy of an offence which is founded on second-guessing the public's reaction to something.

As to contempt of court, is there a law stating that you must be clothed in court? By what right does the court insist on his being clothed, and then enforce that insistence?

tucola said...

This is silly. You can't just wander around in public with your wanger hanging out, and certainly not if you are appearing in court. Everyone knows that.

Conor said...

Google on "Robbers wearing burkas" (without the quotes)and you'll find several crimes committed using the garment as a disguise.
Banks won't allow people wearing crash helmets to enter, and I doubt I'd be able to walk around for long wearing a balaclava without being stopped by the police.
I don't care much what people wear or don't wear, but covering your face is a step too far.

Anne Fay said...

The reason why I want Steve Gough to cover up is completely different to the reasons why supporters of the niqab or burqa want women to cover up.
I think it extremely unlikely that I would be overcome by unabandoned lust upon espying naked strangers, but would like to be saved from the chance that I may sit or touch somewhere that a stranger's naked germy behind has been. Or am I just being a bit OCD?

Icology Research Solutions said...

Ok I agree this is stupid. So in the spirit of the mass trespass that gave us the right to roam who's gonna organise the first mass nude ramble?

daniel-elstner said...

I wholeheartedly agree that incarcerating the man is much worse than having to see him naked, no matter how ugly the sight. How about this: At least in Germany you can get fined on the spot by the police for minor traffic-related offenses against the "public order". This can be even as low as 10 € or 20 €. Wouldn't something similar be appropriate here? Fine the guy 10 pounds every time the police runs across him, and that's it.

About the burka, I see little grounds for outlawing it even though I share the belief that it often forced upon women. The force may be applied in rather subtle ways (it could be merely a result of indoctrination), and thus it would be very hard to show that someone forced some other person to wear it. Which seems to be the motivation for outlawing it altogether.

But if we say it is wrong to force someone to wear something, what's the difference to forcing someone to *not* wear something? Ultimately, I believe nation-wide law is not the right instrument to tackle cultural conflicts if the harm is only assumed, but not confirmed. However, I would find it perfectly acceptable for banks to deny entry to people covering their face, and thus women wearing the burka.

msHedgehog said...

The fact that criminals cover their faces does not make covering your face criminal. If it's not a crime to walk out of your house in a chicken suit it's not a crime to walk out of your house in a nose-warmer or a niqab.

I very much doubt that any bank in London would reject the custom of the wearer - because That Would Be Stupid. It's everyday apparel and perfectly normal attire in the Selfridges knicker department as well as Walthamstow Market. As are bloody awful trannie shoes, harem pants, Versace knockoffs and disastrous hair. Maybe rural areas have hysterics when they see one? Maybe they'd have the same reaction if they were offered a double chai latte with vanilla?

This is laughable.

Bote Man said...

Right after the government balances its checkbook and conducts its financial affairs responsibly, then it can act as the fashion police.

In the meantime it has no standing to do so.

Michael Kingsford Gray said...

Some of the more liberal comments here are totally absurd, when reduced their logical conclusions.
They (ultimately) argue in favour of, say, a male pædophile statically displaying his erection outside of junior school gates to the kiddies passing by.
Every society has mores on what is acceptable clothing.
It is one of the burdens that we must share for not being hermits.

Protect The Kids from Society too said...

I suggest Michael Kingsford Gray has a point, but has reached the wrong conclusion.

Yes, with the taboos our society has, such behaviour is shocking, but in other societies where nudity is not fetishised, children seeing an erect male member would not be shocking. Of course, inappropriate behaviour around children still has limits, but in a society where nudity were not seen as 'a bad thing' kids would just laugh as the odd man acting silly and forget about it. There is nothing 'wrong' with nudity, there is nothing 'wrong' with sexual arousal, it is 'wrong' to harm others and the behaviour outlined is therefore 'wrong' in our society because we also 'harm' kids by imposing a particular view of what is traumatic for them.

However, in a land with our climate, the majority are bound to choose to wear clothes the majority of the time and as a consequence, nudity is very likely to become fetishised to some degree and children are likely to pick up on that and find such displays 'shocking' so we probably do need some structure in law to frame what society deems 'acceptable norm'. Once anything is codified though it will get out of step with society - imagine if we had inhereted Victorian laws prohibiting women showing their ankles? Clearly the public view of what is acceptable is fluid and the law would need to accommodate that - or butt out and leave it to society to police itself with frowns and tuts of disapproval, including for cases such as Michael Kingsford Gray raises. Is there really 'harm' in such actions besides what we as adults would worry about?

However, I could also see it akin to offences such as "walking around with a loaded weapon" (excuse the poor innuendo) or "going equipped" where the law decides that some actions are so indicative of being about to commit a crime that they become criminal themselves. Since actual acts with a child that such a person might be about to engage in would be seriously harmful, would the state of being sexually excited be adequate to be a crime itself?

Surely not without other indicative factors - otherwise if just being naked and erect around a child were made illegal, many kids would be guilty themselves (at bath times, teens with sudden unprovoked arousal in changing rooms - embarrassing, but surely not illegal). There would need to be evidence of intent, not just the act/state itself being illegal. But law which is based on intent drifts into being thought crime - a very slippery slope.

So, despite the shocking nature of the senario Michael Kingsford Gray paints, I don't think this should be illegal - it should be behaviour that is disapproved of and even pittied and helped, and probably laughed at by the kids who shouldn't see nudity or even sexual arousal as 'traumatic' or 'wrong'.

Protect The Kids from Society too said...

I suggest Michael Kingsford Gray has a point, but has reached the wrong conclusion.

Yes, taboos deem such behaviour shocking, but other societies where nudity is not fetishised, children seeing an erect male member would not be shocking. Of course, inappropriate behaviour around children needs limits, but in a society where nudity were not seen as 'a bad thing' kids would just laugh at the odd man acting silly and forget about it. There is nothing 'wrong' with nudity, there is nothing 'wrong' with sexual arousal, it is 'wrong' to harm others and the behaviour outlined is therefore seen as 'wrong' in our society only because we also 'harm' kids by imposing a particular view of what is traumatic for them.

Once acceptable clothing is codified though it will get out of step with society - imagine if we had inhereted Victorian laws prohibiting women showing their ankles? The public view of what is acceptable is fluid and the law should butt out and leave it to society to police itself with frowns and tuts of disapproval, including for cases such as Michael Kingsford Gray raises where there is no 'harm'.

However, it could be akin to offences such as "walking around with a loaded weapon" (excuse innuendo) or "going equipped" where the law decides some actions are so indicative of being about to commit a crime that they become criminal themselves. Since sexual acts with a child would be seriously harmful, is the state of being sexually excited be adequate to be a crime itself?

Surely not without other indicative factors - if being naked and erect around a child were made illegal, many kids would be guilty themselves (shared bath times, teens with sudden unprovoked arousal in changing rooms - embarrassing, but surely not illegal). There would need to be evidence of intent, but that drifts into being thought crime - a very slippery slope.

So, despite the shocking nature of the senario Michael Kingsford Gray paints, I don't think this should be illegal. It should be disapproved of and helped, and probably just laughed at by the kids who shouldn't see nudity or even sexual arousal as 'traumatic' or 'wrong'.

Philip said...

It seems that Steve Gough's "contempt of court" is due to his insistance on appearing in court naked. I think it's quite clear that there's a difference between demanding somebody wears clothes while rambling, and demanding somebody wears clothes in court. Steve Gough's claim that his right to a fair trial is breached because he refuses to wear clothes while the court demands it is laughable.

While I agree it's a total waste of judicial effort and money to keep prosecuting and imprisoning this man, I can't absolve him of all responsibility. I think the average naked cyclist would still be able turn up to court wearing clothes.

Amrynel said...

While society indeed has "mores on what is acceptable clothing" (Michael Kingsford Smith), the government is not society. To confuse the two is unwise.

Government cannot be allowed to legislate "social mores", whether on the streets or in a courtroom. If you doubt that, consider whether you would feel at home in a state that did not share your views on religion - and would put you in prison if you publicly refused to worship the state idol.

This man has been repeatedly sent to prison, and he is in prison now, for the "crime" of refusing to wear clothes for the sake of wearing clothes.

LloydJenkins said...

@Protect The Kids from Society too

There are other situations where the victims of unwanted sexual attentions would be aware of it, though.

Bosses could presumably insist that nudity was the new dress code for the office, or be naked and 'excited' around
And what about flashers? Clothing is, to a point, about sexual modesty. To that extent the state ought to interfere.

Protect the kids from society too said...

@LloydJenkins you miss the point - there are existing laws of harassment which cover such acts abusing power. The crime is not the nudity or the sexual arousal but the intimidation etc. in such circumstances.

Mistaking and confusing the two is what leads to believing the state has a place in dictating what is acceptable attire.

Li said...

Since when is it our right not to be offended?

Should we also outlaw anything that anyone might find offensive - swearing in public, leaving your phone on in the cinema, those people who stand in busy places with clipboards who try to get you to sell your soul to charity?

RichieRich said...

I find the following passage from an article Classical liberalism and libertarianism: the liberty tradition by Eric Mack and Gerald Gaus very helpful as a starting point for trying to disentangle what's right in a liberal society.

<<Normative individualism - the separate importance of each individual's life, well-being or preference satisfaction - is thought to endorse enforceable moral claims held by all individuals against inteferences that diminish their lives, well-being or preference satisfaction. A moral claim against interference by others is basic to the liberty tradition">>

So, to me, the two relevant questions are: (1) does intentional public adult nakedness constitute "interference"? And if so, (2) should it be made an offence under the law?

Some acts (e.g. me stealing your rightly owned property or assaulting you) clearly constitute interference. What about intentional adult nakedness? This seems to me to be less clear cut but, on balance, I feel it does.

It's perfectly legal for a clothed man to stand in a public place, glance at those he finds attractive and get an erection. I think that a sufficent number of people would find a naked man doing the same thing sufficiently upsetting to constitute interference.

On a hot, sunny day I (a clothed individual) like to slouch on a park bench with my hands behind my back and my legs outstretched and apart soaking up the rays. Now, imagine a naked woman adopting the same position with the result that passers by would be able to clearly see all of her "bits". I honestly feel that this again would constitute interference.

For those who are not convinced, where does it end? Someone might argue that just as nakedness isn't "wrong", so the bodily functions of urination and defecation aren't "wrong" either. In that case is it OK to build, in a public place, a glass toilet that can be used by naked people? Does it consitute inteference to be confronted with a view of naked people urinating and defecating? In my (terribly conventional) view, absolutely.

Should public nakedness be an offence under law as opposed to something "policed" only "with frowns and tuts of disapproval" (to quote Protect the Kids...). My gut reaction is that it should be an offence under law but, on the other hand, I absolutely wouldn't want to see a persistent offender locked up for life...

Dr JG said...

I struggle to find much sympathy with Mr Green.

Whether or not I feel that public nudity is acceptable, that is how the law has been interpreted by the Scottish Courts. If they are applying the law unreasonably, it is open to Mr Green to challenge that through the legal process. His actual response is to ignore a part of the law which he does not like. I do not see how he can complain, if he persists in this, that the courts persist in imposing penalties, and escalating ones to boot. What he appears to want is for the law to say "Oh well, if you are going to persist in transgressing, then we will let you carry on as you want." Would Mr Green's defenders accept such an approach for a persistent offender whose offence was something that they were less happy about?

Suppose, for example, that I took a dislike to something that Jack of Kent said in his blog, and responded by repeatedly urinating against the front door of his offices. Peeing is something we all do many times a day, why should the law get involved in saying where I can and cannot relieve myself, how ridiculous?

I suspect that sooner or later, action would be taken to stop me, perhaps an injunction. I ignore it, and eventually am jailed for breaching the injunction, or contempt - I do not know the likely legal mechanism. On release from prison I go straight back to his offices and start all over again.
Would he feel it reasonable for the court to say to me, in effect, "Oh well, we have tried to stop you but failed, carry on if you wish"? Or, if they continued to impose custodial sentences, would he say that it is ridiculous that I should spend the rest of my life in prison simply for urinating on a doorstep?

I think that Jack of Kent, as a legal man, is on shaky grounds if he regards as a legitimate response ignoring a law that one does not like, rather than challenging its application to your case, or campaigning to have that law repealed. If he does advocate that, then who is to say which laws it is acceptable to ignore, and which must continue to be applied strictly?

Jack of Kent said...

@Dr JG

I hope you mean Mr Gough, and not Mr Green :-)

David Allen Green
"Jack of Kent"

Amrynel said...

I am curious as to whether "Dr JG" understands the concept of "civil disobedience". Mr Gough is, from all appearances, not ignoring the law. Quite the opposite - daft or not, he has most definitely and defiantly placed himself in the crosshairs of Authority.

Also, Dr JG's analogy of public urination fails - health hazard aside, when deliberately performed as an act of retaliation (as in the example against Jack of Kent's door) it is flagrant vandalism.

Furthermore, where is Mr Gough's guilty intent? Merely being nude cannot be a crime, else we would all be arrested at birth, and Michelangelo's David would not be on grand display in a public square. Do we only accept nudity when it is an athlete's chiseled perfection?

Finally, no state should impose a punishment greater than the crime. Do the people of Scotland truly consider public nudity a crime equal to or worse than an indefinite and forceful deprivation of a person's liberty by the State?

RichieRich said...

When it comes to real humans rather than marble statues, in hot, humid countries, it was apparently

The pre-missionary worldwide trend was for men and women to cover the basic genitals but not their rear ends or legs or midriffs or for women, breasts.

Men in most cultures cover their genitalia possibly out of instinct, said Kovats-Bernat. "Your genitalia is your guarantee you'll pass your genes on to the next generation," he said, so if you're spending your days hunting in a rain forest somewhere, it might serve your best interests to protect your penis and testicles from nettles, poison ivy, snakes, mosquitoes, ticks and various other threats.

That's why you get so many interesting varieties of penis belts, penis gourds and loincloths. Sometimes they're decorative and designed to "accentuate masculinity," he said, rather than to be modest.


In colder climes where clothes have been the norm, it's perhaps even more understandable that many would prefer genetalia to be covered.

Philip said...

@DrJG: "who is to say which laws it is acceptable to ignore, and which must continue to be applied strictly?"

The same people who currently do. A mixture of the police, the CPS, and the judiciary. As far as I can tell it's a criminal offence to cycle on the pavement, but we let people off up and down the country, mostly by giving police discretion to decide whether it's worth pursuing, but also by requiring CPS prosecutions to be in the public interest.

Asking the police or CPS or procurator fiscal to be more selective about which laws they enforce is not without precedent.

davidp said...

Two possible justifications for such laws (the first based on Dan Sutton's comment):
a) reasonable apprehension of some threat, especially apprehension by women of sexual harassment
b) to be giving excessive and disproportionate (to the benefit) offense "to most reasonable people".
Offensive language (in public) is still outlawed here in Melbourne, Australia.

Incidentally, if you repeatedly use offensive language to the judge in court, I expect you will be locked up for contempt of court. Court is not a space provided for free expression of your personality.

DrJG said...

@ Jack of Kent

[blushes]

Gough. Mr GOUGH.

What worries me is that I specifically scrolled back to the top of the page to double check his name, and Still got it wrong. Many apologies!

@Amrynel

Not sure the Civil Disobedience aspect makes any difference. Does it have any legal standing, if so who defines which laws can justifyably be broken as part of civil disobedience? Not sure if many people would be happy to equate Mr Gough's protest with that of Rosa Parks - and I have not noticed mass protests in his favour, courtesy of the court of Public Opinion, but what would worry me more is that, at the other extreme, many terrorists would argue that their actions are "Civil Disobedience" in what they regard as a just cause.

I do accept your point re my hypothetical retaliation/vandalism. So what if it was simply that I was a creature of habit, and my daily routine happened to find me outside JoK's offices at the time that, being very regular, my bladder started calling me. No deliberate choice of his premises, just answering the call of nature as we all do? My stepmother had a similar issue with a dogwalker allowing his dog to crap on her doorstep, until one day she followed him and presented him with the turd in a plastic bag. The trouble is, there will always be someone who is determinde to be bloody-minded about any "right" and, if some things are not expressly forbidden, will insist that they have an inalienable right to carry out a particular action precisely when and where they wish. "I have a right to pee when and where I need, therefore you have no right to stop me peeing on your doorstep at 9am each day, because I just happen to be there and need to pee."

As for Michaelangelo's David, I have a choice as to whether or not to go and be offended by it, so if I choose to go and look, I cannot complain if I do not like what I see. I do not see that the same applies, were I to wish to go rambling somewhere between Lands End and John O'Groats, that I might be faced with the sight of Mr Gough's naked body. I do not think that choosing to go rambling equates to choosing to look at a naked rambler.
A similar argument in reverse was one of the more reliable ones used against Mary Whitehouse: "If you don't like it, don't go and look at it."

@Philip

That is one of my points - there are people and organisations with the duty and responsibility to decide how the law is to be enforced (no matter how we might argue about how well or otherwise they perform that task), and that group does not include Mr Gough. Likewise, would we be happy if certain members of certain political parties were allowed by the courts to start making their own minds up about how, say, certain anti-racism legislation was to be interpreted and enforced?

Steve Jones said...

The law is a very blunt instrument for dealing with people like Steve Gough, who don't do any real harm, yet act without much consideration for others.

Andrew Wimble said...

While I feel that there are some situations where it is reasonable to have legal restrictions on clothing I feel that that any such regulation should be both kept to the minimum required, and restricted as much as possible.

One obvious situation is the requirement wear protective clothing in some situations, but I am sure there are others. I could certainly see an argument for a minimim ammount of body covering in some situations for hygene reasons, and also restrictions to prevent too much clothing(ie no covering the face) in some areas for security reasons. Any such restrictions should however be tied to specific places/situations where they are applicable and not be used an excuse for blanket rules.

When it comes to private property then I believe that the owners have the right to impose whatever dress restrictions they choose, subject to various anti-discrimination laws. That means I believe that shop-keepers should have the right to ban face covering of all kinds, but not a specific covering used one specific religion which would qualify as discrimination.

Russell Higgs said...

... A culture's power structure depends largely on how we look and how we are looked at.

http://conformandobey.co.uk/pages/naked_protest.html

... "To be offended by the visual appearance of another person is prejudice, akin to racism. The right to exist, uncovered, should hold precedence over the right not to view this, for the objection is irrational." - said Terri Webb

Penglish said...

Excellent blogpost as always.

I've always been puzzled by the law's heavy-handed approach to nakedness. I don't know who first said that if you've seen a naked man before, seeing another one shouldn't shock you; and if you haven't, it's about time you did. Indeed, seeing lots of other (real, ordinary) people naked seems to decrease people's anxieties about their own bodies, and to be positively beneficial.

Of course sexual aggression should be illegal; but nakedness in itself? No.