Lawmaker blocks bid to criminalize upskirting in the UK

A UK lawmaker has blocked a bid to criminalize upskirting, the practice of filming up people’s clothing to see their genitals or underwear, just hours after the government announced its support for the measure.

The bill was due to receive its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday, but progress was halted when a member of Parliament later identified as Christopher Chope objected, prompting some cries of “shame” from other lawmakers.

Campaigner Gina Martin, who started an online campaign to outlaw upskirting last year, said in a statement posted to Twitter that she was “extremely upset and disappointed” but remained positive. “We knew this was a risk — but I now stand with powerful, passionate women and men behind me.”

She added that she had spoken with the Conservative MP since his interjection and hoped he would soon become a supporter of the bill.

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, who first introduced the measure, has asked for the legislation to return to Parliament on July 6 in the hope that it can still become law, PA reported. But again, just one dissenting voice would put a stop to its progress.

‘A hideous invasion of privacy’

The news Friday morning that the government was backing the bill led many to believe that the legislation could have a smooth passage through both Houses of Parliament.

While Scotland has had its own law on upskirting for almost a decade, there is no specific legislation against the intrusive act in England and Wales, according to the PA.

Victims can seek convictions for public disorder or indecency but are not always successful, and campaigners have long been calling for a specific law that recognizes the behavior as a sexual offense, PA reported.

Under the new legislation, perpetrators would face up to two years in jail and the most serious offenders would be named on the sex offenders register, PA said.

“This behaviour is a hideous invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed,” said Justice Minister Lucy Frazer in the statement announcing the government’s backing.

“By making ‘upskirting’ a specific offence, we are sending a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated, and that perpetrators will be properly punished.”

Campaigners had responded to the announcement with cautious optimism.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of charity Women’s Aid, told PA: “We welcome the government taking decisive action to make upskirting a criminal offense. This form of abuse is painful and humiliating for victims and often has a devastating impact on all aspects of their lives.”

“We hope that this new criminal offense will be another step forward in challenging the prevailing sexist attitudes and behaviors in our society that underpin violence against women and girls.”

The UK is not the only country to see a concerted campaign on upskirting. Several US and Australian states have legislated against the behavior and it is illegal in New Zealand and India.

On June 9, thousands of women in Seoul, South Korea, took to the streets to protest against upskirting and the related problem of “spycam porn,” when the images or footage captured is circulated without the subject’s consent.

It was one of the biggest women’s rallies in South Korean history.