Content Warning: This article discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know are affected by the following story, you are not alone. To speak to someone, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
An 18-month campaign by a victim of ‘upskirting’ in the UK has resulted in British lawmakers outlawing the practise.
Thanks to the campaign was led by Gina Martin after she was sexually assaulted at music festival British Summer Time in London’s Hyde Park when a man rubbed against her while his friend lurked nearby.
“Five minutes later, I saw that his friend … was watching a picture taken very close to a woman’s crotch,” she told AFP. “I knew it was me immediately.”
When Martin took the phone and showed the image to police officers, they said, “we can’t really help you.”
Martin collected over 110,000 signatures of support in an online petition to criminalise ‘upskirting’, known in legislation as “Filming a person’s private parts”.
Martin wrote on the petition page:
“This happens regularly to so many women and by putting pressure on the police to prosecute we’re also aiming to raise awareness nationwide that this is a crime.
“The existing offence is Outraging Public Decency – to commit an act of a lewd, obscene and disgusting nature, 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 witnessed it.
“But we want the law to specify clearly that this is a sexual offence with a victim, by adding this offence to the Sexual Offences Act 2003.”
On Tuesday, the upper House of Lords approved the bill, and once it gains the formality of Royal Assent those found guilty face up to two years in jail.
Prime Minister Theresa May personally backed the legislation. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, took to Twitter to express his support.
London should be the safest city in the world for women & girls. Having long supported calls for upskirting to become a criminal offence, this news is welcome – and @ginamartin_uk deserves recognition for an excellent campaign. https://t.co/FvqTLRtvp6
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) January 16, 2019
In Australia, ‘upskirting’ is punishable by up to two years imprisonment, or five years if the offence is aggravated.
In NSW, a court can impose any of the following penalties for a charge of ‘upskirting’:
- Prison sentence
- Intensive correction order (previously periodic detention)
- Suspended sentence
- Community service order (CSO)
- Good behaviour bond