Ventura County, California public defender Liana Johnsson wonders why women can be punished for appearing in public without a shirt while men are free to wander about sans top. Johnsson has been lobbying "to strike down the law that makes topless sunbathing illegal, arguing that it treats men differently from women."
To drive home her point, she produced a short video showing overweight men lounging on California beaches, their ample breasts apparent for all to see.
Not a pretty sight. But Johnsson's mission isn't based on aesthetics. Johnsson wanted to spark a debate about gender equality, but her more urgent objection to laws that define the exposure of a breast as criminally "indecent" is rooted in the harsh realities of the criminal law:
[Johnsson] sounded alarms when noting that because of a recent court ruling, women convicted of indecent exposure could find themselves listed as sex offenders under Megan's Law, alongside rapists and child molesters.
Some will point to a repeal of the law as further evidence of society's moral decay. In reality, repealing the little-enforced law won't change a thing.
"[Johnsson's] looked at places where women do sunbathe nude on the beach, and lo and behold, kids are not traumatized and society has not fallen apart," said Tina Rasnow, coordinator of Ventura County Superior Court's self-help legal access center.
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