Parliament Finally Passed A Bill Criminalising Upskirting & The Implications Are Huge

by Aoife Hanna
Gina Martin/Instagram

Hey guys, looks like there are actually a few non-Brexit-related issues being discussed by the government. I know right?! Who knew. And, best of all, one of the issues debated this week was about penalising sexual predators. An absolute HELL YES to that! Although it is completely shocking that this wasn't already illegal, upskirting has officially been made a crime in the UK today.

Sexual abuse charity Safeline defines as upskirting as:

"The act of taking a photograph (also known as a 'creepshot') of underneath a person’s skirt without their permission."

It took the work of one strong-willed individual for upskirting to be officially be condemned by law today. Gina Martin was herself the target of an upskirter in 2017, the BBC reports. Martin was minding her own business at the British Summer Time music festival in London's Hyde Park when someone went ahead and took a photo under her skirt.

"Eighteen months ago I was upskirted at a music festival and I decided I wasn't going to brush it off," Martin said today after hearing the law had passed, the BBC reports.

Martin went on to explain her motivation in more detail, stating that she was sick of the fact that women were often expected to just grin and bear sexual harassment in all of its forms. She said:

"I was tired of 'ignoring it.' I felt this was wrong and I was astounded to learn that upskirting wasn't a sexual offence. I wanted to change this for everyone, because the least we deserve is to be able to wear what we want without non-consensual photos being taken of us."

Back in 2017, after realising she had been upskirted, Martin reported the incident to the the police, but she was shocked to learn that there was nothing they could do as it was not a specific offence.

Martin shared her story online and it quickly went viral, with many women identifying with the experience she described. Some pretty vile trolls chose to use the opportunity to ridicule Martin, telling her to wear a longer skirt and to stop trying to gain attention, the BBC reports. However, these cruel jibes and negative comments didn't dissuade the writer and activist, who continued to fight to get upskirting banned by law.

An online petition to get Martin's case reopened and investigated by the police received 50,000 signatures, the BBC reports, and the campaign was backed by Wera Hobhouse, a Lib Dem MP. Hobhouse brought a private members' bill backing the creation of an upskirting offence, and it sailed through but for one objection from Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope, who claimed he actually agreed with the bill but didn't agree with it being passed through without enough time to fully debate it. In response, other MPs shouted "shame" at Chope, as his intervention stopped the bill passing into law. However, the bill eventually secured government backing and today, it passed its final stage in the House of Lords.

In an Instagram post, Martin thanked her lawyer, Ryan Whelan, and celebrities such as Holly Willoughby in helping make the campaign a success.

People like Martin are brave warriors who fight for our rights and give a voice to those who may feel scared and helpless. She worked hard to secure this change and, as the BBC reported, she was keen to tell others they can do the same if they set their mind to it:

"To the outsider, the ordinary person, law and politics are complex and daunting. But both are penetrable if you believe in yourself and find the right support."