An intrusive type of sexual assault known as ‘upskirting’ involves snapping intimate photos of girls without their consent and now the police data reveals that perverts are targeting girls as young as 10. Campaigners are now calling on UK legislators to criminalize the offense.
According to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests made by the Press Association, police pursued 78 offences related to upskirting since 2015, but only 11 led to alleged offenders being charged. The reason: there is no specific law in Britain that prohibits the practice.
Upskirting is already illegal in Scotland. The law was changed by the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 which introduced a voyeurism offence. In many of the 78 cases in England there was insufficient evidence to proceed, including the alleged sexual offence against a 10-year-old girl in 2015, Avon and Somerset Police said.
The practice of upskirting and downblousing involves taking close-up photographs or film of a person’s private parts without their knowledge. Victims are usually female and the practice often occurs in public places like shopping centres and on escalators. The images are frequently shared or sold online.
Upskirting has taken place in a range of public spaces, including nightclubs, shops and restaurants, and are usually snapped with mobile phones. Last summer, one man thought it would be a good idea to upskirt a woman named Gina Martin at the British Summer Time music festival in London’s Hyde Park.
Martin caught him in the act, reported him to police, and has since been a vocal campaigner; calling to have Section 67 of the Sexual Offences Act amended to specify that upskirt photos constitute as a sexual offence. She started an online campaign last summer, which has now garnered more than 81,000 signatures in only six months.
Conservative MP Maria Miller chairs the Women and Equalities Select Committee. She said more must be done to stop the “horrific crime.”
“Attempting to take a photograph underneath a skirt is a gross violation of privacy and potentially an act of indecency,” Miller said. She added that a stronger legal framework “can help” begin to address the issue.
Sarah Green of the End Violence Against Women coalition, called on the legislation to be looked at. She said the figures exposed in the FOI requests were “very concerning, even though only a minority of police forces were able to respond because the behaviour is not classified as an offence.”
“It is notable that girls and young women are disproportionately targeted where that information has been recorded. The law should be urgently examined in this area.”