Life

Finally, upskirting will now be a criminal offence

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Susan Devaney
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Upskirting offenders now face up to two years in jail. 

Since 2017, after two men took a picture up her skirt while at the British SummerTime festival in Hyde Park, freelance writer Gina Martin has fought to make upskirting a criminal offence.

Now, after facing multiple hurdles, legislation has been passed to make it illegal in England and Wales.

The new legislation, approved in the House of Lords on Tuesday 15 January, will be introduced in the next couple of months and will see offenders face up to two years in jail. Some may also be added to the Sex Offenders’ Register.

“Eighteen months ago I was upskirted at a music festival and I decided I wasn’t going to brush it off,” Martin said after the bill was approved.

“I was tired of ‘ignoring it’. 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.”

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Upskirting activist Gina Martin explains what it’s really like to organise a national campaign

The bill is part of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for England and Wales. In Scotland, the act has been a punishable offence since 2010.

In 2018, the Press Association made a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to police forces in England and Wales. The request found that police had pursued 78 offences related to upskirting since 2015, most involving alleged offences against young women and girls.

Of these 75 alleged offences, only 11 people were charged. Many cases had to be dropped due to a lack of evidence – including one involving an alleged offence on a 10-year-old girl in the West Country. In addition, only 15 out of 44 police forces held records on offences related to upskirting at all.

Throughout the campaign, Martin has faced multiple blockings from Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope. For reasons unknown, Chope blocked the bill – a single objection can stop a bill from progressing.

However, the fight was worth it as Martin took to Twitter to share the great news:

And many women have also followed suit by posting exuberant messages, too.      

You can read Martin’s story and more about her campaign here.

Images: Unsplash 

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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