Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by British Naturism


  I have been asked to write to the Committee on behalf of British Naturism, of which I have been a member for 23 years. British Naturism is the national body representing naturism and naturists throughout the United Kingdom, and is affiliated to the International Naturist Federation. Full information about these bodies can be found at <> and <> respectively.


  British Naturism has two specific areas of interest relevant to the Committee's inquiry. The first concerns the privacy of naturists, the second is in regard to standards applied to images of naked children, which can create problems for naturists. British Naturism fully supports legislation and other action intended to protect children and young people from violence and other unsuitable material, and from being exploited.


  In Britain, there is no legal prohibition on naturism, whether the social nudity is formalised within the grounds of a traditional naturist club or at a private hire session at a swimming pool, or is casual and informal on beaches or in homes and gardens. Parliamentary debate during the passage of the Sexual Offences Bill in 2002 made it clear that naturism was distinct from "indecent exposure", and that Parliament had neither wish nor intention to criminalise naturism explicitly or implicitly.[14] Despite this, some laws can be applied in ways which inhibit legitimate naturist activity, and it is clear that some of those in authority dislike and disapprove of naturism. This is out of line with the attitudes of the general public—in an NOP survey of the adult population in 2001, nearly half considered naturists to be "sensible", nine out of 10 regarded naturists as "harmless" and only 2% thought naturists were "criminal".[15] British Naturism supports standards and guidelines which distinguish between sexual and non-sexual nudity. The British Board of Film Classification states that "Natural nudity, providing there is no sexual context, is acceptable at all classification levels except "Uc". While this is not quite as universally naturist-friendly as we might like, it supports our contention that there should not be any intrinsic prohibition on children—however young—being able to see images of social nudity.


  Despite the entirely legal nature of naturism, some naturists prefer to keep this aspect of their life private. This can be a particular concern where children and young people are involved. This applies both to parents wishing to protect the privacy of their children, and, sometimes, to children being aware that their parent's lifestyle is a little out of the ordinary, such that it has the potential to attract ridicule. Children often like to be "special", but can be very uncomfortable at being labelled "different". As noted above, anti-naturist views exist amongst those in positions of influence, which can give rise to oppressive actions and attitudes in respect of naturism generally and, occasionally, in regard to individual naturists. British Naturism is concerned that the rise in social networking Websites and other Internet forums might be used to abuse and deride naturists who have no wish for this aspect of their private lives to be in the public domain. Accordingly, British Naturism applies stringent security measures such that only members who have registered with the organisation can access the Members' area of its Website (which includes blogs, discussion forums and member profiles). Also, publication in our members' magazine of images and names is only with the specific prior agreement of those concerned. We ask that the Committee make recommendations which protect and enhance the ordinary citizen's right to privacy and a private life, such that material from the private domain should not become public without the originator's permission. This is not an attempt to restrict freedom of speech, and we recognise that there are both practical and technical issues which limit the measures which can be applied.


  While images of naturists can be used to cause embarrassment as noted above, images of naturist children can also lead to serious problems. There is a widespread belief that any "full frontal" image of a child infringes child pornography laws. This is not so. The Court of Appeal has stated that images of a child showing "nakedness in a legitimate setting" do not contravene the legislation which prohibits production and possession of "indecent images" of children.[16], [17] Despite this judgement, some in the media, in the police and in the social services regard viewing or owning images of naked children as evidence of, at best, unhealthy attitudes and, at worst, criminal paedophilia. While the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill currently before Parliament provides a clear definition of what constitutes a "pornographic" image in law,[18] no such legislative definition exists for "indecent" images of children. Instead, courts and investigators have to rely on case law and the appeal to public opinion enshrined in the use of "indecent" as meaning "offending against recognised standards of propriety". As stated previously, British Naturism supports those who wish to keep their naturism private. However, subject to reasonable safeguards, we do not want sensible limitations on entirely legitimate images of children to be interpreted as a classification of such material as de-facto "indecent"—let alone as "pornographic". When the Committee makes recommendations in regard to "content that exhibits extreme pornography or violence", we urge that the definitions proposed in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill be applied. Further, we ask that, should the Committee wish to make any recommendations in regard to other images of naked children be in the light of the Court of Appeal judgement and, where material is legitimate, restricts it only so far as is necessary to protect the privacy and interests of those depicted and their families.

January 2008

14   British Naturism Briefing Paper available on request. Back

15   British Naturism Briefing Paper available on request. Back

16   R v Oliver and others [2002]. Back

17   The Protection of Children Act 1978 as extended by the Criminal Justice Act 1988, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Back

18   Section 64 of the Bill outlaws "possession of extreme pornographic images" and defines both "extreme" and "pornographic". Back

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