JERUSALEM (AFP) – The global SlutWalk movement is known for its topless protests demanding respect for women’s rights, but a row broke out on Friday in Israel over the right to bare all.
The annual protest in Jerusalem took place on Friday, with a few hundred largely young women marching through the centre of the conservative city.
In previous years a few went topless during the march, organisers said, but this year police tried to force them to cover up.
“The police authorised the protest but they put a lot of new restrictions on us,” Tamar Ben David, one of the organisers, said.
“They said it is illegal (to go topless) and we don’t want to provoke anyone.”
“They wanted us to check no one is naked.”
In marked contrast to liberal Tel Aviv, Jerusalem is a conservative city, with large numbers of religious communities ranging from Orthodox Jews to Muslims.
Ben David said that was the point of holding the march.
“The message of the day is our bodies belong to us and we can do whatever we want with them.”
The organisers appealed to the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, which challenged the police over the matter and eventually forced them to back down, spokesman Yaron Kelner said.
“There is no law that says you can’t walk topless in the street,” he said.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld declined to comment on the case.
But despite the fight over the ban, no women went topless at Friday’s march.
Orr Hod, 18, was the closest it came, wearing just raunchy underwear along with bright blue hair.
She said she was tired of sexual harassment and said too often women are still blamed for being raped.
SlutWalk was first held in Canada in 2011 after a police officer caused outrage during a speech to university students by stating that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised”.
Six people were stabbed — and one teenager was killed — by an ultra-Orthodox Jew at a Gay Pride parade in Israel last summer.
The Jerusalem march started on the edge of an Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood — where men wear long black suits, hats and white shirts and women wear long dresses and cover their hair, sometimes shaving their heads and wearing wigs.
Inbal Flier, a 25-year-old wearing small shorts, a low-cut top and a red head band, handed out leaflets proclaiming the value of the SlutWalk to Orthodox Jewish men and women.
Some stopped and talked, while others pushed back the outstretched hand in disgust.
“Many of the (Orthodox) agree with me when I explain what we are here for, even the women,” she said.
“But then they say ‘you should wear more clothes’.”