Hundreds of women took to the streets of Argentina without their shirts and bras on Tuesday in a colorful protest demanding the right to sunbathe topless like their male counterparts.
The demonstration follows a January incident on a Buenos Aires beach in which police attempted to force three young, topless women to put on shirts. The altercation was met with shouts and jeers from onlookers and was captured on video that went viral in Argentina, sparking discussions on how society perceives and uses women’s bodies.
Argentina doesn’t currently have any laws on its books banning topless sunbathing. But the dozen police officers who surrounded the three young women claimed they were breaking laws that bar “obscene displays in public.”
“This isn’t just about being naked,” said Brenda Asnicar, an actress who joined Tuesday's protest, on Twitter. “What we want is equality. We want to be free without being harassed.”
Tuesday’s demonstration was organized by several feminist groups, which unfurled large banners with slogans like: “These breasts offend you because they are not for sale.”
Protesters also painted messages on their bare breasts that read “we are free,” “this is not a crime,” and “what is obscene is your machismo.”
On Tuesday, protesters said that instead of worrying about what women wear—or don’t wear—in public, law enforcement should be more concerned with protecting them from sexual violence.
“This isn't just about going topless,” said Julieta, a protester who spoke to El Pais. “This says a lot about the existing inequality between men and women.”
Local newspapers reported that as a demonstration continued in downtown Buenos Aires, scuffles broke out between protesters and men who apparently just went to the protest site to gawk at semi-naked women. However, some men also showed support for the protesters by wearing bikini-tops and signs that read “if women can’t go topless, why should I?”
Argentina is one of the more progressive countries in Latin America in regard to women’s rights. But the South American nation still has a long way to go: Last year, large protests against gender violence broke out after a teenage girl was raped and killed by a group of male friends. According to human rights groups, the country saw more than 200 femicides in 2016; Mexico, by comparison, sees more than 2,000 femicides a year.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.