Why wasn’t upskirting made illegal years ago?

It's 2019.

Upskirting is now going to be a criminal offence – and it’s about time!

The blatant violation, involving filming up someone’s clothing without their permission, will now be punishable by up to two years in prison. But my God, has it taken a long time.

The criminalisation of the offence is a done deal – having finally been approved in the House of Lords and now just awaiting the formality of Royal Assent. The issue is that the campaign was started in 2017.

My question – why has it taken so long to be made illegal?

Surely something as intrusive as filming up someone’s clothing in a public space without their permission deserves to be made a crime, right? Not to some it seems, and if it wasn’t for the determination of Gina Martin, it would have fallen at the first hurdle.

Gina introduced us to the term, Upskirting, after starting a viral online campaign to get it criminalised. She had discovered that it wasn’t a specific offence in UK law after being victim to it herself at a festival and being unable to progress her claims, with police telling her there was nothing they could do. She later petitioned to reopen her claim, and then went ever further, lobbying to change the law.

Gina’s aim? To have upskirting recognised in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and to thereby make it punishable by law.

Gina Martin. Credit: REX

But while it garnered a lot of celebrity support and was brought to parliament by Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, its progress was halted by Conservative MP Christopher Chope in June 2018 who did his very best to disrupt the policy’s development – the proposal’s sole objector.

This week however the House of Lords chose to back the bill, and when the criminalisation was confirmed, Gina exclaimed that she was ‘over the moon’.

‘After becoming a victim and recognising a gap in the law, I partnered with Ryan Whelan of Gibson Dunn and began 18 months of exhaustive, emotional and life-changing work,’ she announced. ‘Now? We have changed the law! I always thought politics was impenetrable but with the right help and willpower you can do it. We did it. We made upskirting a sexual offence! I am exhausted and so so happy!’

So now England and Wales are joining the many countries that already have laws on upskirting, with serious offenders even to be named on the sex offenders register.

This is huge progress, but I’m still angry.

Upskirting being made illegal is obviously an incredible thing. I just think it’s a shame that it has taken so long to criminalise something that is so obviously not OK.

Scotland has had laws against upskirting for almost a decade, so why were we behind the curb?

Let’s make sure the next unspecified offence doesn’t take as long to criminalise. We need to do better, and if we we see something that isn’t right, we need to be a Gina Martin and make change.

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