A topless protester poses in front of photographers on Brazil's Ipanema beach.
A topless protester poses for photographers on Brazil's Ipanema beachReuters

A bare-chested protest against a ban on topless sunbathing in Brazil fell flat when only a dozen women showed up.

Hundreds of photographers and male onlookers turned up on Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema beach expecting to see the 2,000 women who pledged to take their tops off at the event on Saturday morning to demand the end of the decades-old ban on topless sunbathing.

Although Brazil is famed for its scantily clad sun worshippers, organisers said that many women were probably too intimidated to join in the protest.

"It is a pity it became a media circus," organiser Ana Rios said. "What really amazes me is the number of men who came here just to see women's chests."

Protesters say the ban on topless sunbathing is old-fashioned and hypocritical.
Protesters say the ban on topless sunbathing is old-fashioned and hypocritical.Reuters

Protesters say the 1940s law, which stipulates that women who go topless can face a fine or up to a year in jail, is archaic and anachronistic.They also point out that the law is hypocritical because nudity is tolerated during the world-famous Rio carnival.

"It's a false puritanism and indicative of our macho culture that we have a law forbidding a woman [to] go topless," Olga Salon told the Associated Press news agency.

Although harsh penalties are rarely enforced, topless sunbathing is not tolerated on most Brazilian beaches.

The protest movement is aimed at raising awareness of the prejudice faced by women and was sparked when Brazilian actress Cristina Flores was threatened by local policemen with arrest during a topless photo session.

"I didn't even know it was illegal when I did it," she said.