Taking photographs underneath a person’s clothes without consent has moved a step closer to becoming a criminal offence in England and Wales.
New voyeurism legislation – dubbed the upskirting bill – will receive a second reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday. The timing puts the bill on track to become law early in the new year.
Today’s general debate follows the bill’s introduction by the government over the summer, which stepped in after a Conservative MP, Sir Christopher Chope, objected to a separate effort to make the practice illegal.
At the time, Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her disappointment in the earlier bill’s failure and pledged her government’s support to end the “invasive” and “degrading” act.
Police data revealed earlier this year that girls as young as 10 have complained about having their photograph taken beneath their clothes in public.
Current laws treat upskirting as an outrage to public decency, but campaigners say this doesn’t account for the sexual motives often involved.
Lawyers have also argued the proposed new legislation won’t make the distribution of upskirt pictures illegal – something Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee wants to see addressed.
The new bill affects England and Wales. Scotland outlawed upskirting – and the associated distribution of photographs – in 2010.
Campaigner Gina Martin began her effort to introduce a ban after a photograph was taken underneath her clothes without her consent at a festival last year.
Recounting her experience in an interview with RightsInfo, Martin said: “Two guys standing nearby were acting really creepy towards us.
“I told them to leave us alone and kind of brushed it off. About half an hour later, I saw one of them holding his phone, he was on Whatsapp.
“There was a picture and it was up a girl’s skirt, right between her legs. I just knew it was me.”
After informing the police, the man was asked simply to delete the photograph. Martin’s case was closed days later, prompting her to launch the campaign.
The new upskirting bill will make the offence carry a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment in cases where a sexual or malicious motive is proved.