Upskirting is a term used to describe the act of taking a sexually intrusive photograph up someone’s skirt without their permission. It is usually performed in public places and can, at times, be done without the person even knowing. Girls as young as 7 have been victims of this distressing and humiliating violation of privacy. However, until April last year, this was not considered illegal.
This law all began with writer Gina Martin. Whilst at a festival in 2017, Martin became a victim of upskirting. She was targeted by 2 men who took photos up her skirt. When reporting it to the police, she was told that this was not a sexual offence in England and Wales, although it had been a law in Scotland for almost 10 years. When she was informed of this, she took her story to Facebook. It went viral and many women commented on their similar experiences. An online petition then started and received 50,000 signatures in only a few days. Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, then introduced the bill to parliament.
Unfortunately, the new law was blocked by Tory MP Christopher Chope in June 2018. During it’s second reading, he shouted “object” which stopped the bill moving forward. The result of this led to him being widely criticised. In fact, it prompted a protest whereby knickers were strung outside his office. However, then Prime Minister, Theresa May, showed her disapproval at Chope’s actions and took to Twitter whereby she said:
Upskirting is an invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed. I am disappointed the Bill didn’t make progress in the Commons today, and I want to see these measures pass through Parliament- with government support- soon.Theresa May
In fact, later that month, Theresa May adopted the ban as a government bill. It then came into force in April 2019. The act of upskirting, or the Voyeurism Offences Act 2019, meant that offenders will be put on trial and could end up with a maximum of 2 years in prison. This includes people who attempt to take a photo but don’t actually end up taking one, for any reasons. If an attempt to obtain an image is for sexual gratification, then offenders could end up on the UK’s Sexual Offender’s Register.
This new law should protect many individuals from being victims to this crime. The charity, Plan International UK, asked 1,004 girls in the UK aged between 14 and 21 whether they had experienced upskirting. 1 in 10 of these individuals had experienced it. 52% of which did not tell anyone what had happened. This demonstrates the scale of this crime. Sadly, individuals have not been able to speak out against it because it was not a law. In addition to this, it is hard to gain evidence to prove the act of upskirting as it is usually done subtly. Hopefully, with the introduction of this new law, as a form of deterrence, less women will be victims.