Maheen Behring 

Naked Politics Blogger

It seems that most people are in agreement when it comes to the issue of upskirting: placing a phone or camera in such a position as to capture a picture up a woman’s skirt is morally indefensible and should be criminalised.  Simple.

But there are, sadly, some people who appear to disagree.  Last Friday, Sir Christopher Chope blocked a bill which would have made upskirting a criminal offence.  He says he blocked the bill because it was introduced in the commons on a Friday, and proposed legislation that is put forward on a Friday can be waved through without discussion, as long as nobody objects.  Christopher Chope did, and although he claims he only objected because he feels that Friday bills are undemocratic and did in fact agree with the contents of the bill, it should be noted that he has also admitted that he did not understand the issue of upskirting in any detail.  He also previously objected to proposed plans to combat sexual harassment within the commons and has a voting record which unfortunately reveals a tendency to vote against proposals which further equality and human rights.  


Then there are people who don’t disagree with upskirting – the people who perpetrate it, and those who feel that it doesn’t really matter that much.  The majority may be loud and fierce, but Chope’s objection is a reminder that, however they choose to masquerade themselves, there is a small minority that are blindly unwilling to support the rights and dignity of women.  

The Spectator published an article which questioned whether new laws on upskirting were necessary, asking why existing laws on voyeurism (properly implemented) weren’t enough.  Of course, in the case of Gina Martin (who started this campaign against upskirting after having a revealing picture taken without her consent)  she was told by police that what had happened to her was not illegal. There is nothing specific in current law that targets upskirting or any similar photographic practices.  

Penalties for voyeurism were previously outlined in 2003, at a time where the prevalence of camera phones and easily shareable images was nothing like it is now.  New laws need to be made because technology has changed, enabling very different kinds of offences. The article in The Spectator does not seem to think technological change is important, and instead suggests that popular support for the bill is simply a combination of ‘aggrieved’ women trying ‘to establish that they’ve been perved on’ and ‘self-regarding Tories’ trying to demonstrate ‘how very woke they are’.  Nowhere in the article does the writer (a woman, surprisingly) express support for the practice of upskirting.  But throughout the whole piece, she attempts to trivialise its impact on women and to belittle the relevance of legislation against it.  

Christopher Chope’s Westminster Office after protesters pinned underwear to the entrance.

She feels that the introduction of the law would allow women to ‘establish’ their status as victims of sexual harassment.  But this implies that upskirting is not really harassment at all. Saying ‘perved on’ instead of ‘sexually harassed’ removes the issue of upskirting from a legal context and instead frames it as an everyday inconvenience that women must face.  Apparently this kind of harassment is unimportant and trivial.

Even if current laws should really cover the issue of upskirting, it is good that a new proposed bill is being put forward which solely targets the practice.  This is not simply because this raises awareness of upskirting, or because it provides defined guidelines on the consequences of such photography, but also because it shows that small, objecting minority that their stance cannot be tolerated much longer.  

We know that there are people who attack women in this way, and we know that there are those who don’t think women need legal protection from this sort of attack. Currently, they hide themselves amongst a mixture of half-hearted cries about democracy and law-making. But if these people actually cared about women, why would they be wasting their time worrying that the introduction of this legislation might create too many laws that protect women?  Or fussing about the fact that the bill was introduced on a Friday rather than some other day of the week?  If they cared about women, they would know that a bill like this does not need debating, that it is common sense, and that there is nothing remotely harmful about a bill that seeks only to punish those who infringe the rights of others.  

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Last Update: June 22, 2018