Upskirting Is Finally A Criminal Offence

New legislation means offenders face up to two years in prison

Gina Martin

by Georgia Aspinall |

Today marks the first anniversary of the announcement that upskirting would be made illegal, thanks to the tireless work of campaigner Gina Martin. A year ago today, writer Georgia Aspinall explained just why this victory was such an important moment.

After almost a year of fighting, Gina Martin has finally succeeded 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, is now punishable by up to two years in prison.

Before this, the vile behaviour was prosecuted under outraging public decency, or as a crime of voyeurism, but both of these presented legal loop holes which prevented 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.’

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.'

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