The act of taking a photograph underneath another person’s clothing without their knowledge or consent is known as upskirting and could now see perpetrators face up to two years in prison and being placed on the sex offenders register.
The news comes following an 18-month campaign led by writer and activist Gina Martin, who launched an online petition after being upskirted at a music festival.
Describing her feelings at the time, Martin said she was “astounded” to learn that upskirting wasn’t illegal, when she reported the incident to police.
After a Facebook post detailing her experience went viral, Martin launched an online petition to have her case reopened by the police, which received 50,000 signatures at the time.
Martin called for upskirting to be made part of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, a campaign that received support from a number of celebrities including Laura Whitmore and Dermot O’Leary, in addition to politicians such as Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse.
Hobhouse then brought a private members’ bill backing the instatement of upskirting as a criminal offence in England and Wales in March 2018.
The government has now announced that the bill has received Royal Assent. Confirming the news on Twitter, Martin said: “After 18 months of tireless work, today we’ve finally done it.”
“As the Queen formally agrees to make our bill into an Act of Parliament, we should see this campaign as not only essential legislative change, but also proof that normal people and grassroots campaigning can make a real difference. It’s a reminder to, instead of saying ‘someone should do something about this’, be that someone.”
In June 2018, Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope was heavily condemned for blocking the upskirting bill, when he shouted “object” during the bill’s second reading in the House of Commons.
Sian Hawkins, Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs at charity Women’s Aid, expressed her hope that the introduction of the new law criminalising upskirting will help to challenge “prevailing sexist attitudes and behavious in our society that underpin violence against women and girls”.
“Domestic abuse does not happen in a cultural vacuum,” Hawkins added.
“By making upskirting a criminal offence, we will send out the powerful message that this form of abuse is unacceptable and perpetrators of this crime will be held to account.”
Justice minister Lucy Frazer praised Martin and those who supported her campaign.
“Gina Martin and other victims, charities and MPs supporting her should be immensely proud,” Frazer said.
“Her efforts show how one campaigner can work with government to change the law for everyone.”
In February 2018, released figures revealed that girls as young as 10 have been targeted by perpetrators of upskirting.
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