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Upskirting, as defined by the UK government, is a highly intrusive practice which typically involves someone taking a picture under another person’s clothing without their knowledge, with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks (with or without underwear). Shockingly, it wasn’t a specific criminal offence until 2019 – but had been in Scotland for over 10 years. On the podcast this week, we talk to the woman responsible for introducing the 2019 Voyeurism Act, Gina Martin.
In 2017, Gina and her sister attended British Summertime, a family-friendly daytime festival in London. At 5pm, in a crowd of over 60,000 people, they were standing next to a group of men who were overstepping the mark when interacting with Gina and her sister, including making jokes that then turned into more vulgar and sexual comments. To Gina’s horror, she then caught a glimpse of one of the group's phones and on it was a picture of her crotch.
Gina, after being physically grabbed by the man, bravely snatched the phone from the man and ran towards her nearest security point – whilst being chased by him. Gina then requested assistance from the Police; upon their arrival and to Gina’s surprise, they informed her that because she was wearing underwear, it wasn’t actually something that they could help with. She was then told that if she had chosen not to wear underwear, something could have been done about it because the photo would have been classed as a ‘Graphic Image’.
It is a categorical fact that Gina’s choice of clothing was not to blame for what happened to her; it was the perpetrator and the perpetrator alone. After hearing what the Police had to say and fed up with a victim-blaming narrative (that women should wear more clothes), Gina set about changing the way that voyeurism is seen and dealt with by the law.
Gina, charged by what happened at British Summertime, aimed to change the law around voyeurism, starting and spearheading a social media movement that grew rapidly. Gina’s campaign eventually resulted in a petition that amassed over 110,000 signatures, and after an 18-month battle to illegalise upskirting, she finally won The Voyeurism (Offences) Act, commonly known as the Upskirting Bill. The Voyeurism (Offences) Act was introduced on 21 June 2018 and came into force on 12 April 2019.
You can read more about it on the UK Government website and find exactly what is covered by the law We would also encourage you to check out our Know Violence campaign for Cambridgeshire constabulary about acts that might not be illegal but are still unacceptable.
An accomplished activist, TEDx speaker and author, Gina joins us today to tell us all her story, and have a candid conversation about society's attitude towards the safety of women, and how men need to fundamentally change their behaviour to support the cause.
Listen to the episode below.