Those who photograph with their mobiles the bottom part of a woman's skirt, without the consent of the victim, face from this Tuesday on UK to penalties of up to two years in prison. In the most serious cases, the guilty parties will also see their names included in the public lists of sex offenders.
The practice known as upskirting, that normally takes place in public spaces such as supermarkets, buses, subway cars or nightclubs, was not criminalized. The new Voyeurism Law of 2019 covers the gaps that the Law of Scandal against Public Decency or the Law of Crimes against Sexual Freedom caused with its drafting. Until today, any act of voyeurism could only be denounced by a witness, something that rarely exists in cases of upskirting in which the actor of aggression takes advantage of the coverage given by the crowd.
"Those responsible for such degrading acts will face prison sentences from today, and the victims' denunciations will be taken very seriously," said Secretary of State for Justice Lucy Frazer, after the Chamber of Common approved the new text. The initiative was promoted by the Government of Theresa May last June, but the campaign to achieve the creation of this new crime started 18 months ago.
It was the purpose of Gina Martin, a woman who suffered this type of practice during a music festival. After checking that two men had photographed the inside of her skirt with their mobiles, Martin went to the police. The agents replied that the facts reported did not constitute a crime. After a campaign on the social network Facebook that gathered more than 50,000 signatures, and the support of numerous politicians and celebrities, the matter came to Parliament at the initiative of individual deputies. The efforts of a single conservative parliamentarian, Sir Christopher Chope, paralyzed the entire procedure, amid shouts of "shame" from other parliamentarians. An anonymous activist came to hang four panties in front of the door of Chope's office.
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, showed her "disappointment" at the failure of the legal initiative and pledged to put the support of her government behind a new attempt. May defined the upskirting as "a horrific invasion of privacy that degrades and anguishes the victims".
The new crime will come into force in England and Wales, because in Scotland it has already been criminalized for years. According to a report of the Association of the Press of the United Kingdom, prepared from data obtained by the Freedom of Information Act, of the 78 cases of upskirting reported in 2018, only 11 ended in convictions.