Thu, Nov 13, 2003 - Page 16 News List

Back to normal nudity for Rio

A 1994 ban on nudism at a beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, been repealed in order to tempt back foreign tourists

BRAZIL , RIO DE JANEIRO

A nudist plays a game of volleyball on Abrico beach.

Ironically in a country known for skimpy bikinis that reveal more than they cover, Rio de Janeiro has balked for the past nine years at allowing a nude beach, but that is now changing.

The city is "as famous for its natural beauty as it is for Carnival reveling with televised samba parades and belles in their olympic nakedness," said one Brazilian judge.

And with these words last month, he dismissed a 1994 ban on nudism at a beach called Abrico, ruling that arguments of immorality did not apply to well-behaved naked sunbathers on the outskirts of merry Rio.

On a recent sunny weekend after the lifting of the ban, dozens of nudists filled Abrico beach, the city's only nude beach which sits on a secluded strip of sand between the mountains and next to surfers' favorite spot of Grumari.

One man stood on a rock, talking on a mobile phone that made his ear the only covered part of his body. Others played volleyball or jumped in the waves.

Some swimsuit-clad bathers walked rather sheepishly along the shore, past a sign saying: "Beyond this point you may find naked people."

Victorious organizers didn't mind the onlookers.

"The curious today are followers tomorrow," said Pedro Ribeiro, president of the Abrico Naturist Association.

Mecca for visitors

Abrico is one of very few nudist beaches in an urban area in Brazil and the only one in the international tourist mecca that is Rio.

The drive to lift the ban was motivated in part by nudists' arguments that foreign tourists, especially from Europe, would flock to Rio if they had a place where they could bare all.

"We just reopened and we already have foreigners from Germany, Spain and the US, and people are asking for the address," Ribeiro said.

Brazil, with its nearly 8,000km of mostly beautiful sandy coast has about 20 nudist beaches or colonies. In Spain there are 400, according to court documents. France, a much smaller country, has five million nudists, compared with Brazil's 500,000.

Elias Alves Pereira, president of Brazil's National Federation of Naturists, says that the number of nudists has doubled in the past three years and is convinced that the growth will continue.

Brazil is also way ahead of fellow Latin American nations Argentina and Mexico, with less than 10,000 nudists each.

Although Latin American countries are viewed as puritanical in many ways, Rio's nudists say the problem they had been fighting all those years was neither public opinion nor the country's habits, but just one person.

Abrico beach was officially opened to nudists in 1994 under the mayor who is again at the city's helm. But lawyer Jorge de Oliveira Beja filed a court challenge alleging that Brazilian culture was not accustomed to "immoral" nudism in public places and won an injunction closing the beach.

Not for arousal

Despite the recent lifting of the ban, uncertainty still hangs over otherwise sunny Abrico. Ribeiro said Beja would likely challenge the ruling in a higher court.

Despite Beja's objections, nudists insist Abrico will remain a wholesome spot. "The beach is not for those who are looking to get sexually aroused, although it may happen ... In such cases people are supposed to get dressed or go for a splash to calm down, or members of the association ask them to do so or to leave," Ribeiro said.

Organizers sometimes have to talk sense into the curious when they go too far in staring at nude bathers.

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