Italy’s supreme court revealed Thursday that public masturbation is not a crime unless it is done in front of a minor.
The decision came after a court case in which a 69-year-old man was convicted of “practicing autoeroticism” after masturbating on a bench in front of a group of college students. The man was jailed for three months and made to pay a fine of nearly $3,600. The court’s decision was reached in June but publicly revealed this week.
The judge’s interpretation comes from a decriminalization measure in 2015 called Legislative Decree 8. The legislative decree ruled it was no longer illegal to be seen masturbating in places frequented by women. But the new law does stipulate that if the act is witnessed by a minor, the offender can face nearly three to five years in prison.
The judges exonerated the defendant in the case, explaining “the act is not included in the law as a crime.” The judges also kicked the case back to local courts to rule whether he should face an administrative fine, which would be between $5,000 and $35,000.
Italy’s ruling is not without precedent. An elderly Swedish man who publicly masturbated in 2013 was acquitted after the court found that he “was not targeting a specific person.”
By contrast, nearly every state in the U.S. has indecent exposure laws which prohibit any exhibition of private parts. Punishment in the U.S. ranges from a fine to an imprisonment, and in some cases the offender must register as a sex-offender for the rest of their lives.
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