Simply put, "upskirting" means taking an upskirt photo of someone without their consent. Taking such images, or "creepshots" as they are also known, is illegal in Scotland, along with "downblousing", but neither is a crime in England and Wales – despite both practices being widely denounced as sexual harassment.
Currently, upskirting is not classed as a sexual offence in either country, meaning the law doesn't recognise the person who took the image as a sexual offender or consider the person it happened to a victim. This is despite numerous reports of it happening in public places, most recently and notably to Gina Martin, who is campaigning to change the law with the help of an online petition.
Perpetrators don't often get charged with voyeurism either, because victims are only protected by voyeurism laws if they're in a private setting where they could reasonably expect privacy.
The only way victims can prosecute the perpetrators of upskirting is by making a case of Public Nuisance and Outraging Public Decency, which means to commit "a lewd, obscene or disgusting" act, which is capable of outraging public decency, in a public place where at least two members of the public who were actually present at the time could have seen it (whether or not they were aware of the act or outraged by it).
Martin is calling for upskirting to be made illegal under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Specifically, she wants section 67 to be amended so that taking upskirt photos constitutes a sexual offence with a victim. Martin and her campaign partner Ryan Whelan, a lawyer from Gibson Dunn, have so far been to parliament and secured cross-party support for their case.
You can follow Martin's campaign to force the government to #StopSkirtingTheIssue on Refinery29 UK and read the stories of women with experiences of upskirting in the coming weeks.
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