Upskirting: What is it and why are people trying to make it illegal?
A bill to criminalise upskirting in England and Wales has just been blocked by a Tory MP
Upskirting is a term used to describe the act of taking a photograph up someone's skirt without their permission.
The sexually invasive act was set to be made a criminal offence in parliament this week, following a campaign launched by upskirting victim Gina Martin.
However, the bill - which would have seen perpetrators face up to two years in prison - has been blocked by a Tory MP.
Conservative MP for Christchurch Sir Christopher Chope objected to passing the bill on Friday afternoon in the House of Commons.
Due to rules in place after 2.30pm, just one objection was enough to block the legislation from progressing.
Martin began campaigning to make upskirting illegal in England and Wales after a man, whose advances she’d rejected, took a photograph underneath her skirt at a music festival in Hyde Park last summer using a smartphone.
“A few minutes later, I saw one of his friends looking at an intrusive picture of a woman’s crotch covered by a thin strip of fabric. I knew it was me,” Martin wrote for the World Economic Forum.
“Tears filled my eyes and I began drawing attention to him: ‘You guys have been taking pictures of my vagina! What is wrong with you!?’ He grabbed me and pushed his face in front of mine, bellowing that I give him his phone back.”
The freelance writer was able to snatch the man’s phone and present it to police officers.
Although the incident left the 26-year-old feeling deeply violated and distressed, Martin was told by the officers that nothing could be done because she had been wearing underwear and therefore the man’s actions could not be legally classed as an offence.
While upskirting is illegal in Scotland under the Sexual Offences Act, it isn’t criminalised as an individual act in England and Wales - thus, police aren’t required to record it, meaning statistics regarding its prevalence are hard to uncover.
However, figures released in February revealed that girls as young as 10 have been victims of upskirting and that just a third of British police forces in England and Wales report the incidents they encounter.
After her experience, Martin embarked on a passionate campaign to enlist a new law that would hold upskirting perpetrators to account for their actions via a custodial sentence.
She launched a petition that received more than 100,000 supporters and soon caught the attention of the ministry of justice.
She received cross-party support from MPs and worked closely with justice minister Lucy Frazer to progress the campaign, which also received backing from a number of celebrities including Laura Whitmore and Dermot O’Leary.
Had Martin’s proposal gone through - as it was predicted to on Friday morning - the sentencing for the violation would have been brought in line with existing voyeurism offences, which could see perpetrators put on the sex offenders register and imprisoned for up to two years.
In response to the bill being blocked, Martin said she was “extremely upset and disappointed”.
“We knew this was a risk - but I now stand with powerful, passionate women and men behind me, and I am confident that Lucy Frazer is committed to - and will - close this gap in the law,” she said in a statement.
She added that Sir Chope has agreed to meet with her and her lawyer, Ryan Whelan, to discuss the proposed legislation.
“I’m positive and hopeful that he will become a supporter,” she added.