Upskirting Will Be Made A Criminal Offence

Upskirting Will Be Made A Criminal Offence

On Monday 18th June, the government confirmed that it will introduce legislation to ban upskirting, making it an official criminal offence. Freelance writer Gina Martin began the campaign after being upskirted herself at a festival in 2017, but her crusade hasn’t been an easy one – particularly after her motion was initially rejected in the House of Commons. Here’s everything you need to know about the new law…

What is upskirting?

Upskirting is the act of taking a photo or video up a victim’s skirt without their consent, in order to gain images or footage of their underwear or genitals. At a British music festival in August last year, this is what happened to writer Gina Martin, who was shocked to find that police wouldn’t be able to take further action after men took pictures up her skirt, because the practice isn't illegal.

Figures on upskirting obtained by the Press Association highlight the issues facing police when dealing with victim reports. Just 15 of 44 police forces contacted by the publication had a record of upskirting allegations in the two years since revenge porn was made illegal, while 14 had no records at all. Those who did have data showed 78 incidents had been reported in two years, with just 11 resulting in the suspects being charged. But campaigners say the real number is likely to be far higher. Sarah Green, from the End Violence Against Women coalition said phones have had “a huge impact on the scale and types of offences committed against women and girls over the last few years.”

What’s happened so far?

Gina and her fellow campaigners have been in an almost year-long battle to make upskirting illegal. The 26-year-old has no legal or political experience but worked closely with the government on the campaign.

“I looked into the laws of England and Wales and found that upskirting isn’t a sexual offence here,” Gina told the Guardian. “I went online and looked it up to see if people were talking about this, to see if people thought this was wrong, and all I got was porn websites and upskirting photos and instructional videos.

“There’s a massive community online of people who do this and can get away with it and they know there’s going to be no repercussions. I became pretty angry about it, and I launched a campaign to make it a sexual offence.”

On Friday 15th June the motion came to make upskirting illegal was finally taken to the House of Commons. It was expected to be easily passed during the discussion in the chamber, but was blocked at the last minute by Tory MP Christopher Chope, who was the only MP to object. Chope’s intervention was met with shouts of “shame” from other MPs – including members of his own party.

Gina released a message on her Twitter after Chope’s objection, expressing her disappointment but stating that she remained positive. “Ryan and I have just spoken with Sir Christopher and he has agreed to meet with the two of us to discuss the bill,” she wrote. “I’m positive and hopeful he will become a supporter.”

Since Chope – who has regularly obstructed private members’ bills in the past – became the target of anger by both advocates for the upskirting law and other members of parliament, he has clarified that he was, in fact, a supporter of the upskirting law and was objecting to the parliamentary procedure rather than the law itself.

It just goes to show if something isn’t right, it doesn’t matter how ‘normal’ you are. We all have the ability to change things if we work hard.

Chope called upskirting “vulgar, humiliating and unacceptable” and said allegations of him being “some kind of pervert” were “a complete travesty of the truth”.

"It's defamatory of my character and it's very depressing some of my colleagues have been perpetuating that in the past 48 hours," he added. "The government has been hijacking time that is rightfully that of backbenchers. This is about who controls the House of Commons on Fridays and that's where I am coming from."

However, on Monday the Ministry of Justice confirmed on Monday that the government would be introducing an upskirting bill. “We support the campaign led by [Gina],” the official Twitter page tweeted. “Victims of ‘upskirting’ will be better protected, and perpetrators properly punished, as a result.”

In a tweet on Monday afternoon, Gina wrote that she was thrilled to finally announce the passing of the law. “This bill will go through,” she wrote. “The Government, [Gina’s lawyer] Ryan and I will finish this. Upskirting will be made a sexual offence. And it just goes to show if something isn’t right, it doesn’t matter how ‘normal’ you are. We all have the ability to change things if we work hard, know what we want, go about it the right way and just. don’t. stop. [sic]”

What will happen now?

The new law is thought to carry a maximum two-year prison sentence for perpetrators and would allow, in the most serious cases, those convicted to be placed on the sex offenders register.

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