Female nudists are appealing for action to be taken to protect people on a naturist beach in Brighton from inappropriate behaviour by men.
Women who use Brighton nudist beach, in Kemp Town, say the area is male-dominated and should be a safe and inclusive space following reports of voyeurism and inappropriate behaviour.
They claim that a lack of safeguarding measures means some people are able to ‘get away with unwanted behaviours’ which puts others off from using the beach.
Bella Kirkus, 51, from East Brighton, said she has witnessed incidents of women being photographed without their consent and men ‘covertly pleasuring themselves’.
She said: ‘I would not actually call myself a naturist – I just don’t like wet swimming costumes and I’m lazy.
Women who use Brighton nudist beach, in Kemp Town, say the area is male-dominated and should be a safe and inclusive space following reports of voyeurism and inappropriate behaviour
‘It’s somewhere I like to go on my own but I’ve got more and more cross with some of the behaviour.
‘Sometimes you will get men coming to sit too near you. I become hyper-vigilant when I see groups of young women as they will usually get circled by men who will start acting up. It’s rife.
‘I used to just leave the beach, but that’s outrageous.
‘Women should not have to be vigilant in order to be in a public place.
‘You get people saying, what do you expect, it’s a nudist beach – yet in Europe you are expected to behave more respectfully on naturist beaches.’
Another woman who occasionally uses the nudist beach said she would consider going there more often if there were more women.
They claim that a lack of safeguarding measures means some people are able to ‘get away with unwanted behaviours’ which puts others off from using the beach
She said: ‘People say ‘well it’s the naturist beach, so what do you expect’ and so on but this enables people to get away with it and the authorities don’t take it seriously.’
Campaigners have suggested measures to improve the area and say the council has a duty to protect those using the naturist beach.
One of the key demands is for a lifeguard station to be set up on the nudist beach and for beach patrols to take place there, both as a deterrent against inappropriate behaviour and to protect swimmers.
Currently lifeguards are based about 200 metres west of the nudist beach.
Other proposals include installing welcoming signage at all access points, with rules about behaviour and contact information for how to attract help quickly.
Campaigners want improved access to the beach and for the council to consult disabled groups, as well as more toilets in the area and for the naturist beach itself to be expanded, to combat overcrowding in the summer.
Bella said she has been pushing for change for years but ‘the moment is now – especially with Reclaim the Streets’.
She was among campaigners who recently had a virtual meeting with councillors to discuss ways to improve the area.
Campaigners have suggested measures to improve the area and say the council has a duty to protect those using the naturist beach. One of the key demands is for a lifeguard station to be set up on the nudist beach and for beach patrols to take place there. Pictured: File image of a beachgoer staring out to sea at the nudist beach in Brighton
Bella said: ‘There has been some resistance to safeguarding the beach from people who should be doing it.
‘People think naturism means sexual offending and that is also what we’re trying to change.
‘The authorities have failed us for a long time but we want to address these failures and turn this around, as it could be something remarkable.
‘The nudist beach is such a unique place. It’s a council-sanctioned naturist beach and a bona fide tourist attraction – people come from all over the country.
‘It’s just getting people to adjust their thinking 180 degrees to see it as a jewel in our crown rather than a dirty corner.’
The naturist beach is the oldest in the UK, and was formerly designated in April 1980, having been championed by a woman – councillor Eileen Jakes.
Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle has backed calls to introduce safeguarding measures in the area and attended the virtual meeting with councillors and campaigners.
He said: ‘Our beach should be a sanctuary for everyone to go and feel at one with nature, including swimming.
‘But it is poorly served by the council seafront team, with them refusing to place lifeguards on the beach or to do regular beach patrols, even though the water to the east of the beach is more dangerous than most other stretches of water along the seafront.
‘I was disappointed we weren’t able to get better commitments from the seafront team to put lifeguards on or near the beach and to patrol it properly, or even to think of creative solutions.
‘I was pleased however that councillors took this issue seriously. They considered anti-harassment training which was offered and were committed to looking at increasing the size of the beach eastwards, where the beach is under-used.
‘The development team outlined plans to provide board walks giving disabled people better access, new toilets and to ensure the beach is better maintained, creating new signage to celebrate our heritage and ensuring a users’ group for the beach is established.
‘I’m genuinely happy the councillors took a proactive approach and I hope that will continue.’
A council spokesman said: ‘We’ve been contacted by users of the naturist beach in Brighton who have raised concerns around the safety of women, trans and non-binary people there.
‘We intend to look at this issue as part of a wider report into women’s safety in the city.
‘This will be considered at a future meeting of our Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee.’