Geneva, Switzerland OKs bare-breasted swimming for women

GENEVA — Who needs St. Tropez? A glitzy Swiss city is allowing women to swim topless now, too.

Geneva's regional council, modifying a ban that predated bikinis by decades, has ruled that women can again pop off their tops legally in Lake Geneva and Rhone River without running the risk of a fine.

It didn't take many petitioners to sway lawmakers' minds. The council voted to amend a 1929 ordinance that prohibited women from swimming topless in the city's natural waterways, but the change doesn't apply to public swimming pools or swimming naked.

The issue made headlines locally last summer after a woman who was fined for swimming topless complained that women were allowed to sunbathe bare-breasted, but not swim that way — as if the eyes of fish merited greater shielding than those of human passers-by.

She led a petition drive that garnered a mere 233 signatures, but that was enough.

"The state council studied this petition and decided that indeed, in 2017 this very old law could be relaxed, and acknowledged that women can swim bare-breasted," Nicolas Bolle, assistant secretary-general of Geneva's security department, said Thursday of the decision made a day earlier.

"Think back to what our great-grandmothers and grandmothers wore to swim in 1929: A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then," he added.

The complainant insisted the law was sexist. The fines section of the security department said in an email that women offenders risked penalties of 70 Swiss francs, or about $70, for violating the local law.

The issue had been subject to selective enforcement, leaving it up to individual police officers to decide if a citation was warranted. A statement from the regional government Wednesday cleared that up, stating flatly: "It will now be possible for women to swim topless, if they so desire."