Meet the girl campaigning for ‘upskirting’ to be considered legally as sexual harassment
Upskirting is when a photo is taken of someone’s crotch without their consent
“Two men were being generally creepy to me before it happened. I was talking to my sister, and I saw one of the two guys was looking down at his phone. There was a picture taken up a girl's skirt, in between her legs. It was me."
Gina Martin was at a concert in Hyde Park, when two men in the crowd took a photo up her skirt. After grabbing the phone and reporting it to the police, her case was dismissed because the photo wasn’t “graphic” enough.
Gina was a victim of 'upskirting', when a photo is taken of a person’s crotch without consent. Typically, the victims are women.
Since speaking to Gina, it has been announced that upskirting is now officially illegal.
🚨The law changes today🚨
Upskirting is illegal.
No one has the right to take pictures under your clothes, without your consent.
— Ministry of Justice (@MoJGovUK) February 12, 2019
The 25-year-old has been campaigning for upskirting to be considered illegal under The Sexual Offences Act of 2003.
Gina was in the crowd at the British Summertime Festival to watch The Killers, when she came into contact with two men standing nearby. After noticing the men laughing at their phone, she realised the picture they were laughing at was an image of her crotch.
Gina told The Tab: “I sort of latched onto it. I grabbed the phone and double-checked it was me. Then we got into a bit of a scuffle. I ran off with the phone to security, through the crowd while he chased me. When I got to security I gave them the phone and then the police arrived."
The police responded well to Gina’s distress, but a lack of “graphic” detail in the photo meant little legal action could be expected from the incident.
“The police were really kind and compassionate. But they basically said: 'We’re really sorry we had a look at the photo, it shows more than you’d like, but it’s not graphic so you probably won’t hear much from us.'"
In an attempt to resolve the issue, the police told the man to delete the photo, meaning Gina lost her evidence. Later, she posted on Facebook to bring attention to her case and name the perpetrators.
“They’d asked the man to delete the picture, and he did. I didn’t realise at the time this was mental, because I was upset. Five days later I got a call telling me the case was closed, and I got really upset and wrote my post that went viral."
Since then, Gina’s story has circulated the internet and let her build a campaign against upskirting online, including a petition, which has nearly 60,000 signatures, pressuring for the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 to be amended.
You'd be forgiven for thinking upskirting is considered voyeurism, but voyeurism only applies to private places. Victims can only prosecute upskirting under the Outraging Public Decency law, which is more concerned with public protection rather than violation of an individual's privacy.
Gina said: "Outraging Public Decency is the same offence people get charged for if they urinate in public, or have sex in public, or flash. So the only law that protects me is one that worries what the public has seen. My skirt isn’t actually technically considered a private space. That’s the problem. That’s what I’m trying to change."
And upskirting isn't the only form of sexual harassment that has legal loopholes. A worrying trend of 'downblousing', when a photo is taken down a woman's top, is also threatening women.
"Downblousing is just like upskirting, in that it's stealing sexual gratification from someone who doesn’t know. The world needs to catch up with smartphones and digital media, that's the problem I think", said Gina.
Gina’s position as a female activist has been the main drive behind her campaign, as she recognises this is a problem relating to many young women. Her encounter with upskirting was the last straw on a mounting pile of everyday harassment.
She said: “It happens so often. If I go on a night out, a guy will put his hand on my bum. Or in a club, a guy asks you out and will not leave you alone. The police said to me they see this [upskirting] a lot in crowded spaces, like public transport not just festivals. It’s a real issue which is why we need to sort it out.”
With many other festivals still to come in August and September, Gina advises other girls in the same situation to always try to get the picture off the perpetrator.
Gina added: “If it happens to you, make everyone else around you aware of it. The only way I got evidence and got him to the police is because I made everyone aware of it. If can you get the picture in some way – I know that’s incredibly difficult – and if you can remember what they look like, that helps.
"One of the biggest things is talking about it, but not talking about it with your friends who already believe it. You need to talk about it with the guys in your life, because all the good men, of which there are billions , all think it's disgusting. For those men to talk about it is what’s going to make a difference.”