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Public indecency: Wikis


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Public urination is generally regarded as an act of public indecency; as illustrated in this Cartoon print from 1799

Public indecency refers to activity prohibited by the law in many locations. Public indecency is used as a blanket term for activities that authorities would like to prohibit but that may not be explicitly defined as prohibited. It may also be referred to as "sexual misconduct" or "public lewdness". Common incidents include indecent exposure and sexual intercourse or masturbation in public view.


Legal status in the United States


Man and woman in swimsuits, ca. 1910; she is exiting a bathing machine
Annette Kellerman, early 1900s, in swimwear which she wore when arrested for public indecency

In the early 1900s, women were expected to wear cumbersome dress and pantaloon combinations when swimming. In 1907, Annette Kellerman, an Australian swimmer, was arrested on a Boston beach for public indecency for wearing her trademark one-piece swimsuit. After a public outcry at the arrest, the style had become generally acceptable by the 1910s.[1]


In the fifty states of the United States, state law prohibits exposure of the genitals and/or the female breast in a public place, and may in some states require evidence of intent to shock, arouse or offend other persons. For example, Vermont only prohibits "open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior"[2] so many forms of public nudity are legal.


Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc. 501 U.S. 560 (1991) is a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States on freedom of speech and the ability of the government to outlaw certain forms of expressive conduct. The issue was whether Indiana's public indecency law prohibiting total nudity in public places violated the First Amendment. Chief Justice Rehnquist said that the law was clearly within the State's constitutional power because it furthered a substantial governmental interest in protecting societal order and morality. Public indecency statutes reflected moral disapproval of people appearing in the nude among strangers in public places, and this particular law followed a line of State laws, dating back to 1831, banning public nudity.

A 21-year-old woman was ticketed in 2003 for appearing naked on the Internet. The photos were taken in a downtown bar in Lincoln, Nebraska. [3].

Six male riders were charged with public indecency during the 2005 World Naked Bike Ride Chicago ride and later prosecuted with sentences ranging from fines and non-expungeable conviction to three months court supervision.

Legal status in India

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is often used to charge sex workers with vague crimes such as "public indecency" or being a "public nuisance" without explicitly defining what these consist of.[4]

Legal status in Scotland

Under Scots law, public indecency is covered by Crimes of indecency.


See also

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