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Upskirting is now officially a criminal offence in the UK

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Pip Cook
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The degrading practice of upskirting is finally an illegal offence, with perpetrators facing up to two years in prison.

A law making upskirting a criminal offence has finally come into effect in the UK.

As of 12 April 2019, offenders who take a photo under a person’s clothes without their knowledge can now be arrested. If convicted, they will face up to two years in jail and may be placed on the sex offenders’ register.

Gina Martin, the writer and activist who launched a national campaign to make upskirting illegal after a man took a picture up her skirt at a music festival in 2017, celebrated the news that the practice had finally been banned.

“Today, the Voyeurism Act comes into effect and I’m so happy. Finally we have a fit-for-purpose law that protects against every instance of upskirting – as we should have always had,” she said.

“But this is just the beginning. Please raise your voice and report if you are a victim or if you see someone become one – every report builds a picture so we can stop upskirting.”

Upskirting was officially made a criminal offence under the Voyeurism Act when the Queen signed off the legislation in February 2019. Weeks later, Martin took home the Equality Champion of the Year award at Stylist’s Remarkable Women Awards 2019.

A bill outlawing upskirting had previously been approved by the House of Lords in January. The bill’s success was met with celebration by those who worked tirelessly to make the degrading and invasive practice illegal in the UK.

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But Martin’s campaign to make upskirting illegal had its fair share of setbacks. In 2018, MP Sir Christopher Chope shocked both fellow members of parliament and the public by blocking the legislation, which had been expected to pass easily through the Commons as a Private Members Bill. 

Refusing to be disheartened, Martin and her supporters continued to push for a change in the law and the bill secured government backing in July 2018.

Chope has recently come under fire once again for blocking a law aimed at making it easier to protect girls from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), prompting calls for his expulsion from the Conservative party.

After the Voyeurism Act came into effect on 12 April, Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said: “We have always been clear – there are no excuses for this behaviour and offenders should feel the full force of the law. From today, they will.

“By taking decisive action and working closely with Gina Martin and other campaigners, we have ensured more people are protected from this degrading and humiliating practice.”

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

A version of this article was first published on 12 February 2019. It has been updated throughout. 

Images: Chris Barbalis/Unsplash

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