Campaigners are once again calling on the government to criminalise “upskirting” as a sexual offence, after a Freedom of Information request found that girls as young as 10 had been victimised.
Campaigners have issued fresh calls for the government to make “upskirting” a criminal sexual offence, saying that current laws around the issue do not provide women with sufficient protection or privacy.
The renewed attention on upskirting comes after 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.
Currently, the practice of secretly taking a photograph under a woman’s skirt is a crime in Scotland, but is not illegal in England and Wales. Those caught in the act could theoretically be charged with other offences, namely voyeurism or indecency, but it is feared that this means that some perpetrators are not charged at all.
Campaigners have long been pushing for upskirting to be criminalised, much in the same way that revenge porn has been made a standalone offence, to make it easier to bring charges against alleged offenders.
Sarah Green, of the End Violence Against Women coalition, told BBC News that the polices responses revealed by the FoI request “show that the police are clearly struggling to recognise upskirting distinctly, even though the disclosures reveal that it is commonly connected to existing sexual offences including voyeurism and sexual assault”.
Gina Martin had upskirt photos taken of her at a music festival in London last summer. She successfully launched a petition to push the Metropolitan Police to reopen her case, after originally being told by officers that there wasn’t “much [they could] do”. She is now pushing for the government to make upskirting a criminal offence under section 67 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
“This happens regularly to so many women and by putting pressure on the police to prosecute we’re also aiming to raise awareness nationwide that this is a crime,” she said.
MP Maria Miller, the head of the women and equalities committee, acknowledged that a stronger legal framework could help tackle the “horrific crime” of upskirting.
“Attempting to take a photograph underneath a skirt is a gross violation of privacy and potentially an act of indecency,” she said.
Former justice secretary David Lidington said in September that he would consider the possibility of making upskirting a criminal offence, but was moved out of the cabinet in January as a result of Theresa May’s reshuffle.
The current justice secretary, David Gauke, has yet to make an official comment on the issue – but when something makes women and girls feel this vulnerable and violated, criminalising it seems like a no-brainer.
It’s time that England and Wales followed Scotland’s lead, and made upskirting a crime.
Images: Jandro Martinez / Unsplash / Rex Features