Activists in Catalonia are celebrating after the Spanish region’s government told its town halls that they must allow women to swim topless in public pools.

Going topless is protected by the Catalan Equality Law of 2020.

However, some municipal swimming pools have cracked down on the practice since the legislation was introduced, prompting dozens of complaints each summer.

Local authorities have now been asked to ban all forms of discrimination.

Preventing women from going topless “excludes part of the population and violates the free choice of each individual in relation to their body,” the Catalan government’s equality and feminism department informed them in a letter.

The document said local authorities had to “defend discrimination on any ground… including sex or gender, religious belief or dress”.

It also stipulated that breastfeeding should be allowed, as well as the use of full-body swimwear, which would include the Muslim ‘burkini’.

A spokesman for Catalonia’s equality department told Spanish media that the letter was just “a reminder” but that it was mandatory for municipalities to obey it.

The regional government, led by the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left (ERC), can theoretically fine any town hall found to have breached the rule up to €500,000 (£430,000).

Many of the complaints filed against town halls where topless was not allowed were members of a feminist group called Mugrons Lliures (Free Nipples).

“This is a gender equality issue: Men could wear tops and women could not,” said Mariona Trabal, a spokeswoman for the group.

“We don’t know why they took so long, but we’re very happy,” he added of the letter.

The topless issue is an area of ​​contention in Spain that is not only related to Spain’s swimming pools.

On Saturday, organizers of a Pride event in the southern city of Murcia covered the torso of singer Rocío Saiz with an LGBTQ flag after she took the stage topless. After her performance, she said she had been questioned by the local police.