Advertisement
Identity

First, She Was Upskirted. Then She Got it Banned in England and Wales

Thanks to Gina Martin, upskirting—the act of filming or photographing up someone's clothes without their consent—is now a criminal offense.

by Zing Tsjeng
Jan 16 2019, 7:11pm

Photo by Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

After an 18-month battle, upskirting will finally be made illegal in England and Wales. Offenders who film or photograph up someone's clothing without their knowledge or consent will face up to two years in jail.

The legislation was passed by Parliament on Tuesday and is waiting to be rubber-stamped into law by Royal Assent. Under the new law, the most serious offenders will also end up on the sex offenders register. Upskirting was made illegal in Scotland in 2010.

After over a year of "exhausting, emotional, and life-changing work," campaigner Gina Martin, 26, celebrated the success of her campaign to get the act banned in the country.

"I am over the moon," she tweeted. "We have changed the law!! I always thought politics was impenetrable, but with the right help and the willpower you can do it. We did it. We made upskirting an offence. I AM EXHAUSTED AND SO SO HAPPY!"

Martin was upskirted at a music festival in July 2017. While waiting for the Killers to perform at British Summer Time, a man positioned his camera under her skirt and took "took pictures of [her] crotch in broad daylight," she wrote in a subsequent BBC article.

Police got the man to delete the photo, but informed Martin that upskirting was not a criminal offense and that she could not press charges. After her Facebook post describing the incident went viral, other women began contacting her to tell her about how they had been upskirted too. It prompted Martin to launch her campaign to get upskirting banned in England and Wales.

"I was tired of 'ignoring it,'" she told the BBC shortly after the bill was approved. "I felt this was wrong and I was astounded to learn that upskirting wasn't a sexual offence. I wanted to change this for everyone, because the least we deserve is to be able to wear what we want without non-consensual photos being taken of us."

For More Stories Like This, Sign Up for Our Newsletter

The ban on upskirting was proposed as a private member's bill, meaning that it was introduced by an MP and not as part of the government's planned legislation. But it was almost derailed in Parliament when Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope—who has been accused of sexist behavior in the past—blocked the bill. He later admitted that he did not know what upskirting was, and said that he objects to all private members' bills on principle.

An anonymous protester later made their feelings known by draping four pairs of underwear across Chope's office door in Parliament.

Upskirting remains legal in many US states. In Texas, New Jersey, and Massachusetts—three of the handful of states that have banned the practice—laws against upskirting were drawn up only after a victim's privacy had been violated.