Monday, September 29, 2008

Nudity legal all over Wellington?

The Hive notes the story that an old bylaw, that is apparently unenforceable, banning nudity for over 8 yos on the beach has been repealed by Wellington City Council. This follows the same action by Kapiti Coast District Council. I assume Lucyna at NZ Conservative wont say its because Kerry Prendergast is a heterosexual National Party member. Mind you, the old bylaw was never enforced - but the publicity in the media means that people now know they can't be arrested for mere nudity - the question is whether it is indecent exposure.

However, to be serious I don't doubt that conservatives will fear this will result in a bout of flashing, perverted showing off and the like. Certainly people ought to not fear other people at the beach, their children especially shouldn't fear others. It shouldn't be a problem, because such aggressive behaviour will remain summary offences. Most Wellingtonians living on the Miramar Peninsula know only too well that Breaker Bay is an unofficial nudist beach. What will be legal is simply going into the water naked, or sunbathing naked, essentially minding your own business. Nudity is not, per se, sexual. Indeed in some contexts it is abundantly beautiful, it leads one to look at it because it is so - it is the difference between those who see nudity and think "porn" (which admittedly the majority of teenage boys probably think), and those who see it and appreciate it for how the human form can be quite exquisite.

Now having said that I doubt if 90% of those who may be nude on a beach in New Zealand would fit that mould for me - and I expect they also aren't being nude to be admired, just to be comfortable, and rather "laissez faire".

The Dominion Post reports that the legal position is more than just beaches, but any public place in Wellington City. Nudity in a park, nudity walking down Lambton Quay. Quelle Horreur!

Now Section 27 of the Summary Offences Act says that indecent exposure is when someone "intentionally and obscenely exposes any part of his or her genitals".

Simply lying on your back in the Botanical Gardens might not be the case, but certainly showing off and drawing attention to your genitals would. Also interestingly, it means breasts are allowed - regardless - they are not genitals.

However regardless of what you think - this is the tragedy of the commons. As long as peaceful people do not initiate force (or threaten it) against each other, the law should not be concerned. Private property rights mean you can control your land, your park, your mall, your shop - but that is where it ends. The solution to concerns about nudity in public is private property rights. The solution to those who think nudity is an opportunity to threaten is the existing criminal law.

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