Upskirting: In Conversation with Gina Martin

Upskirting is taking unauthorised photographs under a skirt therefore capturing an image of crotch area, underwear or genitalia. Sometimes these images can be taken and can get shared around on various websites; this has always been an issue but recently it has been bought to light over laws and social attitudes.

There have been many cases where photos have been taken unknowingly and have become sexualised by people posting them onto porn sites. There are often cases where these images are involving  victims who are minors or people who can be clearly recognised, this raises issues of privacy and reputation.

Upskirting photos can be taken easily, for instance, when you are walking up and down stairs. It is often very hard to know if someone has taken an upskirt photo of you unless you see them take it or find it on various websites, this is because the cameras are normally hidden.

At the moment, there is no law in the UK specifically naming upskirting. However, Scotland created specific legislation against the crime of upskirting in 2009. In Britain, victims and police are currently only able to pursue offences under the two current laws which are voyeurism and outraging public decency.

Voyeurism: This only applies in a private place (at home, in a changing room etc) where the victim has a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ so, if you are in a public place voyeurism cannot be used.

Outraging Public Decency: A 100 year old public-order law which protects the public from having to see anything lewd (this is often used to prosecute urinating in public etc). It does not recognise upskirting as a crime with a victim. Prosecuting under this law, the assault must meet a series of ‘rules’- e.g. two or more people had to be there to see it happen- so it is notoriously difficult/often impossible to charge with it because it is so outdated and unfit for purpose.

As you can see it can be hard to prosecute under these two current laws as there are limitations to both laws but upskirt photos can technically be prosecuted so the aim is to make upskirt photos a specific crime.

Gina Martin has started a campaign to make upskirt photos a specific crime after being a victim at a music festival. She reported the incident to the security at the festival who then passed it on to the police. Only five days later she received a phone call from the Met police to say the case was closed and “there’s not much we can do” because “it’s not a graphic image”. Her petition currently has 82,000 supporters and 7 months ago the Met police reopened her case. I was lucky enough to interview Gina:

What inspired you to start a campaign?

I had upskirt photos taken of me at a festival by guys who wouldn’t allow me to reject their advances. It was humiliating, and after handing the phone, picture and guy over to the police they said there wasn’t much they could do.

What advice would you give to anyone who has been a victim of Upskirting?

I would tell them to tell the people around them, to get the evidence if they can and to think logically – e.g they will have to fight for people to listen due to this grey area. On the other hand, it won’t be long until I change that, so hopefully, it won’t be so hard to prosecute in the future.

Why do you think the issue of Upskirting isn’t commonly spoken about?

It’s a very secretive assault. Many women don’t know it’s happened to them. But more importantly, I don’t think women feel comfortable speaking up about something they know they’re not supported about. The law doesn’t currently support all women who are upskirted, so why would they speak out about it? It’s also true that as women we’re taught that assault and harassment is ‘just part of being a woman’. It shouldn’t be.

What are your aims for the campaign?

We are going to change the law so that all victims can be prosecute effectively.

How can more people get involved with raising awareness about Upskirting?

You can sign my petition on Care2. Just type in ‘Gina Martin’. But if there are any writers, journalists, speakers, lawyers, academics, authorities – anyone out there who could lend their voice to the cause, please get in touch! We already have in incredible team and support from MPs across all parties, academics and lawyers have all agreed this needs to be changed. But the more that lend themselves to the cause, the quicker it will happen.

Overall there are a lot of things that need to change regarding Upskirting from the laws surrounding the issue to social attitudes. Even though this may take time it is important to keep fighting and speaking out eventually people will listen and things will change for the better.

Written by Alice Dunham (@alicerosedunham on Twitter.)