Earlier today, we were celebrating the success of Gina Martin's campaign to make upskirting a criminal offence. After starting an online petition in August last year, justice minister Lucy Fazer confirmed that the government was backing a private members bill to outlaw the act of taking a picture under a person's clothing without their consent.
However, during the second reading just moments ago, two MP's blocked bill, with Sir Christopher Cope shouting 'object', followed by cries of 'shame' from other MPs. Both Chope and MP Philip Davies chose to reject the bill, which would prevented offenders from using legal loopholes to avoid prosecution of upskirting.
Thanks to a Commons rule that prevents MPs from voting on a bill on a Friday if the debate goes beyond 2.30pm, Davies 148 minute long speech meant that the bill ran out of time to be passed. Former Lib Dem health minister Norman Lamb said, ' i have a very real concern - and I don't think it's his intention, but I hope it isn't - that we could end up this being talked out today, and the risk then that this Bill is lost.
'That would be a tragedy if that happened.'
However, there will be a resuming of the third reading of the bill on the 6th July. MP Hobhouse said afterwards:
'Gina, her lawyer Ryan Whelan, and myself have worked with the Minister on this and we know how deeply she cares about this issue. We will therefore be making urgent arrangements to meet with her and plan the route forward.
'Upskirting is a depraved violation of privacy. It is outrageous that a single Member of Parliament has today been able to derail a much needed and universally supported change in the law.
'This change would have protected women and girls across England and Wales and given the police the tools to bring the perpetrators to justice. This is too important to allow people like Christopher Chope to obstruct progress on this vital issue.'
Earlier today, we wrote...
After almost a year of fighting, Gina Martin will finally succeed in making upskirting a criminal offence. The act of taking a picture under a person’s clothing without them knowing, intending to view their genitals or buttocks, will be punishable by up to two years in prison.
Justice Minister, Lucy Frazer confirmed today that the government is backing a private member’s bill, introduced by Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, outlawing upskirting. Currently, the vile behaviour is prosecuted under outraging public decency, or as a crime of voyeurism, but both of these present legal loop holes which prevent tons of cases from being prosecuted.
In Gina’s case, who started this campaign after being a victim of upskirting at a festival last year, the men who took pictures of her could not be convicted because the picture did not outrage public decency enough (because she was wearing underwear) and as it was not in a private space it did not count as voyeurism (because apparently up our skirts isn’t a private space).
Receiving such an inadequate response from the police, as is the case with many crimes that disproportionally impact women, she decided to take to social media and began a campaign that will ultimately change the law. Not only will offenders face up to two years in prison, but in extreme cases they can also end up on the sex offender register.
‘The more the system fails women like me, the more men try their luck at upskirting or groping because they don't fear the consequences,’ Gina wrote in a piece for Grazia last year, ‘And the more common it is, the less the police prioritise it. That's why, if it happens to you, you have a duty to speak up and push for harder punishments – for all women. The only way the system will improve is if we force it to.’
The second reading of the bill is set for this afternoon, with Professor Clare McGlynn, an expert on sexual offence law from Durham University, calling it a ‘welcome first step’. She told The Guardian:
‘The criminalisation of upskirting … is a welcome first step towards a more comprehensive law protecting victims of all forms of image-based sexual abuse, which also includes so-called “revenge porn”. We hope to work with the government to strengthen what is proposed in order to provide a truly effective deterrent, looking at intent, anonymity for all victims, and at threats.’
Now, with campaigns like Gina’s proving women can be successful in their fight against the sexual offences we experience every day, there is hope that more of these acts, that we for so long have brushed off as a horrible but expected part of our lives will actually become punishable offences.
Because far too often we are expected to accept intrusive behaviour as part of our daily lives, whether it’s catcalling, verbal or online harassment from rejected men, or something like upskirting. The police failing us so often has led to a culture of shrugging off unacceptable behaviour, but Gina is living proof that shouting loud enough will create change.
It’s time we all shouted a bit louder to demand change, because unfortunately and unfairly, as women, that’s what it takes to get anyone to listen. The onus shouldn’t be on us, it should be on the people in place to protect us, but as Gina said ‘the only way the system will improve is if we force it to.'