Upskirting Now Criminalised in Voyeurism Act 2019: Welcome Start, More to be Done

Upskirting – taking photos or videos up a woman’s skirt without her permission – is a form of image-based sexual abuse and some forms of upskirting are now criminalised in the Voyeurism Act 2019. This Act is a welcome step forward and helped to raise the issue amongst the public. But more action needs to be taken to challenge these abuses. The Act does not cover all forms of upskirting and there remain significant flaws and gaps in the laws against voyeurism.

We must also recognise that upskirt videos are easily and freely available on mainstream porn sites – read more here about my research with Fiona Vera-Gray about how porn sites are minimising and normalising this form of sexual violence.

How should the law be reformed? During Parliamentary debates, I made a number of recommendations to improve the law – and my evidence is available here  – with key recommendations being:

Executive Summary of Recommendations to Reform Voyeurism Laws

  1. The Voyeurism Bill is a welcome first step towards a more comprehensive law that needs to close the gaps, resolve inconsistencies and modernise the law covering all forms of image-based sexual abuse;
  2. Recommend amendment to remove motive requirements;
  3. Recommend amendment to include distribution of ‘upskirt’ images/videos;
  4. Recommend extending notification requirements to cover all motives;
  5. Recommend strengthening existing voyeurism offence to cover all motives and remove inconsistencies;
  6. Notification requirements do not unnecessarily criminalise young people;
  7. Recommend comprehensive law covering all forms of image-based sexual abuse’; and
  8. ‘revenge porn’ is a sexual offence and anonymity should be extended to all complainants.

FOI data from April 2018 found that there are few prosecutions and widespread support for a change in the law. In response to this new data, I said it showed there “are few public places where women are free from this abuse“, adding that “The Government’s continuing failure to provide an effective criminal law against upskirting breaches women’s human rights. We are entitled to protection from degrading and abusive treatment, whether offline or online – and we are entitled to have our privacy in public respected.”

For a more detailed analysis and policy recommendations, see Upskirting Briefing June 2018 .

In May 2018, Erika Rackley and I wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice , to urge the Government to reform the law to protect victims of all forms of image-based sexual abuse, including ‘upskirting’. Our reform suggestions are also made in this short blog.

My research, together with Erika Rackley, argues that upskirting should be viewed is a form of image-based sexual abuse – together with other forms of this abuse such as ‘revenge porn’, sexual extortion, sexualised photoshopping and the like. The civil and criminal law need to be reformed to respond to these growing forms of abuse and we have made detailed recommendations in our briefing document and academic work.

I first wrote about this issue a few years ago with Julia Downes and you can read that blog here.

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