The original publication appeared in Ms. Magazine.
Gina Martin was shocked when she reported to police that a man had taken a photo up her skirt without her permission. She assumed the police would determine that “upskirting” was an assault—instead, they informed her that because she was wearing underwear, taking the photo did not constitute a sex crime. The 26-year-old immediately began campaigning in England and Wales to make upskirting illegal—and hold perpetrators accountable.
In the UK, upskirting is only defined as an “outraging public decency.” Any upskirting photo that isn’t “explicit”—any photo in which a woman is wearing underwear—is technically not an illegal photograph, and even if it is, upskirting is not defined as a sex crime. Martin created a petitiondemanding a change to the vague laws in place—but after receiving over 100,000 signatures, legislation which would have landed upskirting perpetrators on the sex offender registry and allowed them to face up to two years in prison was blocked by 71-year-old MP Sir Christoper Chope, 71. (Since his “no” vote on the upskirting bill, thousands of activists have signed a petitionrequesting that his Knighthood be revoked.)
“I am obviously extremely upset and disappointed that Sir Chope decided to object on this vitally important bill for the women of England and Wales,” Martin said after the legislation stalled. “I remain positive, though. We knew this was a risk—but I now stand with powerful, passionate, women and men behind me, and I am confident that Lucy Fraser is committed to—and will—close this gap in the law.”
In the past, Chope has proposed abolishing the minimum wage and blocked bills to prevent revenge evictions and pardon Allen Touring—the gay mathematician credited with cracking the German code Enigma during World War II who was later prosecuted for homosexual acts in 1952. But the Touring pardon was later passed in a separate government bill despite Chope’s block, and Prime Minister Teresa May has committed to banning upskirting in the UK despite his interference, too.
“We are going to take the bill that was blocked,” she told BBC News, “and put it through in real government time.” The day after Chope’s block, the UK government confirmed it will introduce legislation making upskirting a sexual offense.
“This bill will go through,” Martin wrote in an official statement in June following a meeting with the Ministry of Justice. “The government, Ryan and I will finish this. Upskirting will be made a sexual offense. And it just shows that if something isn’t right, it doesn’t matter how ‘normal’ you are. We all have the ability to change things if we work hard, know what we want, go about it in the right way and just. don’t. stop.”