Upskirting is the act of taking sexually explicit photographs from up a woman’s skirt without their consent. On the 12thFebruary 2019 a bill on ‘upskirting’ received Royal Assent meaning that upskirting would be made a criminal offence in law from April 2019 onwards and offenders could receive prosecution by up to two years in prison and be placed on the sex offenders’ register. But who was behind this campaign and why has this only happened now?
Gina Martin was at the British Summer Time Music Festival in July 2017 when a man took a photograph from up her skirt and began sharing it with friends. When she reported it to the police, they replied that they were unable to do anything because nothing in law prevented the perpetrator from his actions. Shocked at the response from the police, Gina endeavoured to make the act of upskirting illegal, and she tirelessly campaigned to the extent that a law was made against it. This YouTube video documents her own experience and the fight to make upskirting illegal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-ica8bbyQs.
The law on upskirting is really important because its another step towards protecting women and their rights. In the last few years, the media and the government has been particularly concerned with targeting sexual abuse as it tries to challenge sexist attitudes towards women. This law also exemplifies that a normal person has the ability to make their voice heard and influence law makers. People usually associate law makers with the privileged elite, however Gina is a 26-year-old woman who faced injustice and set out to change the law and the way that upskirting is perceived.
However, the law on upskirting hasn’t been plain sailing process, thanks to the Conservative MP Christopher Chope who attempted to block it by shouting ‘object’ during a discussion about the law in Parliament. Though, in reality this had a limited impact as Theresa May vowed to push through the bill, it still shows that sexist attitudes towards women are still dominant in society. This is particularly upsetting as coming from an MP, the people who are meant to protect and fight democratically on our behalf, you would expect a lot more compassion and decency for something that has the potential to affect women nationwide. Gina also revealed that she faced personal struggles during her campaign through ‘trolling’ online with members of the public calling her a ‘fame-whore’ and suggesting that she should just wear trousers instead.
Gina has used her experience of upskirting to create positive change which will affect hundreds and thousands of women and I personally find that extremely commendable. In a world where the conversation surrounding sexual abuse is becoming more prevalent, the passing of laws like these show that change can and will happen.