Anyone caught taking photos or videoing underneath anyone’s clothing without their knowledge for sexual gratification will now face up to two years in prison.
The practice of ‘upskirting’ has officially been made illegal in England and Wales following an 18-month campaign by the activist Gina Martin. She was at a music festival when a man put his phone between her legs and took pictures of her crotch.
When she found out that it wasn’t illegal, she launched an online petition which quickly went viral on social media.
Today the queen signs off our bill. Today upskirting is illegal. https://t.co/RMnuUe2mHV
— Gina Martin (@ginamartin_uk) February 12, 2019
The law comes into force today after the bill received royal assent from the Queen.
As well as a prison sentence, offenders would also be placed on the UK’s sex offender registry. The law will only apply to England and Wales because similar legislation was already in place in Scotland since 2010.
There was no law already in place for upskirting simply because the government hadn’t taken the new uses of smartphones into consideration.
According to the BBC, police in England and Wales were only able to pursue offences of outraging public decency or as a crime of voyeurism. Voyeurism only applied if the individual is filmed in private and others have to witness the upskirting for it to have been investigated for public decency.
Fantastic news – we now have an #UpskirtingLaw to:
✅ Protect potential victims
✅ Properly punish perpetrators
✅ Help stop this unacceptable practicehttps://t.co/ot9XFQVvil
— Ministry of Justice (@MoJGovUK) February 12, 2019
With this law being passed, no one has the right to take pictures under someone’s clothes without consent. Victims are also protected from being named in the media.
Speaking after the bill was passed through the House of Lords in January, Gina told the BBC:
Eighteen months ago I was upskirted at a music festival and I decided I wasn’t going to brush it off,
I was tired of ‘ignoring it’. I felt this was wrong and I was astounded to learn that upskirting wasn’t a sexual offence. I wanted to change this for everyone, because the least we deserve is to be able to wear what we want without non-consensual photos being taken of us.
It’s a huge step towards helping to deter this kind of practice from taking place in England and Wales. Creating a safe environment will ensure that smartphones are used properly, with those violating the rights of others punished for committing crimes.
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Matt Weston is a lover of electric cars, artificial intelligence and space. From Cornwall, he’s a UCLan graduate that still dreams of being a Formula One driver in the very near future. Previously work includes reporting for regional newspapers and freelance video for the International Business Times.