Upskirting (the practice of taking photographs under someone’s clothes without their permission) is set to become illegal in England and Wales after the bill cleared its final legal hurdle on Tuesday.
On a day of Brexit political turmoil in the House of Commons, the bill faced its third and final reading in the House of Lords before getting the rubber stamp of approval.
A new law will now be introduced in the next couple of months. It could mean that perpetrators might face up to two years in prison and are added to the sex offenders register.
The next step for the bill is the consideration of any amendments and then royal assent – a requirement before it becomes law. It is not expected that there will be any further hold ups.
Anthea Sully, CEO of White Ribbon UK, a charity working to end male violence against women, said: “We firmly believe that this legislation is long overdue and will make activities such as attending music festivals and travelling on public transport much safer for women.”
The bill forms part of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and will cover England and Wales. Upskirting has been a crime in Scotland since 2010.
Campaigner Gina Martin has been calling for a change in the law to make upskirting a sexual offence since she was a victim at a music festival in 2017.
Although this is an objective success for ensuring the safety of women in public places, MPs including Jess Phillips and Maria Miller have previously told HuffPost UK they aren’t sure if it is the right bill for now.
Maria Miller said: “What the government needed a year ago, indeed two years ago, was a more comprehensive bill against all image-based abuse. If they don’t do that now, we are sleepwalking into a crisis.”
Adding: “There are so many different ways you can abuse images online, some of which we know about – deep fake, cyberflashing, revenge porn – some of which haven’t even been invented yet.”
Rachel Krys, co-director of End Violence Against Women Coalition, previously explained to HuffPost UK that the government believed upskirting was already covered by existing public decency laws.
But because outraging public decency is not a sexual offence, reporting it under this framework did not award victims the anonymity they would expect with other sexual crimes, and people continued to campaign for a new law.
The offence would have also been on the statute books earlier if it had passed through the commons on first reading but it was blocked by sole objector, Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope.