Upskirting becomes a crime in a long overdue victory against voyeurs

Writer and Activist Gina Martin, winner of the Equality Champion of the Year Award, attends Stylist's inaugural Remarkable Women Awards in partnership with philosophy at Rosewood London on...

The Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 now makes it illegal to take an image or video under someone's clothing for sexual gratification.

 

Gina Martin has succeeded with her campaign to make upskirting illegal under the Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019.

The upskirting bill has passed through both Houses and received Royal Assent. It is now illegal to take an image or video underneath someone's clothing to see their genitals or buttocks.

This will apply regardless of whether the victim is wearing underwear or not and when the offender has the motive of causing distress or gaining sexual gratification.

Upskirting is punishable by up to two years in prison for the worst cases, while those found guilty will be placed on the sex offenders' register.

Gina Martin leads appeal

Martin fronted this campaign after she was a victim of upskirting at a music concert. In July 2017, Martin reported a man who had taken pictures up her skirt.

But when she learned that upskirting was not covered under the Sexual Offences Act, Martin started a campaign to outlaw it.

Gina Martin poses for a portrait in London on October 10, 2018. - When a man took a picture under her skirt with impunity, it was the final straw for Gina Martin. The 27-year-old was...

This campaign gathered pace when an online petition received more than 50,000 signatures and a private members bill was then brought before parliament by Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse.

But the campaign was hit with a further setback when backbench Conservative MP Christopher Chope objected.

Chope argued that the bill had not received sufficient scrutiny but he received heavy criticism for this, having also blocked a bill designed to protect young girls against Female Genital Mutilation.

However, the government backed this bill and after passing through both Houses, it received Royal Assent to pass through as law.

Concluding remarks

Friday marked a victory for Martin, a victory for victims of upskirting and a victory in the battle against sexual offenders.

Upskirting has always been widely recognised as an ethically repugnant practice but the law did not reflect this.

And Friday's update was long overdue. Upskirting quite clearly qualifies as a sexual offence because it involves an unconsenting victim and their genitals or buttocks and an offender - a voyeur or someone seeking the cause public humiliation to their victim.

For some reason, this was seen as distasteful but not technically illegal by the word of the law and the threat of being placed on the sex offenders' register or ending up in prison should hopefully deter voyeurs from preying on their victims.

We live in a world where homosexual conduct can still be considered an offence in some jurisdictions. Just like week, the Sultan of Brunei passed new legislation to make homosexual 'offences' punishable by stoning to death.

The UK - often upheld as a beacon of progressiveness on such social and moral issues - reacted with understandable and justified backlash, yet the laws in this country were still stuck in the past with regards to upskirting.

There is a long battle ahead in the battle against sex offenders but outlawing upskirting is just one necessary step along the way.