Hanna Seidel, an activist and filmmaker, enters a conversation on consent and shares her journey on how she made upskirting illegal in Germany, her experience with sexual harassment and the police and why we need to support people and causes we believe in to create lasting change.
Here we clarified key terms and definitions to understand the topic better.
“Downblousing is a description of the action taken, looking down a woman’s blouse to see her breasts.”
“Public decency is a level of behaviour that is generally acceptable to the public and is not obscene, disgusting or shocking for the observers.”
“Upskirting is a form of sexual harassment. It normally involves taking a picture under a person’s clothing without them knowing with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks to obtain sexual gratification, or to cause upset to the victim. Upskirting often occurs in a public crowded place, making it hard for the victim to know that a photograph is being taken, victims are often distressed and feel humiliated. ”
“Voyeurism is the activity of getting pleasure from secretly watching other people in sexual situations or, more generally, from watching other people’s private lives. ”
Here are facts and figures on the topic.
In the first six years after the enactment of the new Law in Scotland, 142 were charged with upskirting, but only 19 were convicted, representing a 13 per cent conviction rate.
According to Police data from 2018, victims of Upskirting age between 7 to 70, with most females as victims and males as perpetrators. The data shows that victims were targeted in various public places like shops, work, streets, and even schools. Only a handful of cases resulted in a criminal charge.
According to data from 33 police departments in 2020, where stay-home orders due to Covid-19 restricted peoples’ movement, there were 196 complaints of upskirting in public places such as supermarkets, parks, and public transport.
Here are a few quick facts and some easy to understand information on this topic. Feel free to post to your social media accounts to get your friends involved.
Check out the following resources to learn more about nudity and consent.
Gina Martin is widely known for creating and running the media and political campaign which made upskirting illegal and encourages each person to drive their own change. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
Bold Voices has developed a set of activities and resources to start conversations about gender inequality and gender-based violence in the classroom.
Upskirting and consent are topics that are often misunderstood because of the myths surrounding them, here we want to clean up some of the most prominent misconceptions.
Various internet platforms and chat groups exist where men enable and encourage each other to commit criminal offences such as upskirting or downblousing and share these private images with each other without any consent of the victims.
Upskirting is no trivial act. Many non-consensual upskirt videos land on porn websites. Therefore, upskirting is a form of Image-based sexual abuse.
To blame crimes such as upskirting on the way women dress is victim-blaming. Men need to bear the consequences for non-consensual behaviour, which includes upskirting and downblousing. There is no need to speak about women’s clothes when it comes to men’s criminal offences.
Check out these guidelines that help you to have conversations on consent.
Advice: Oftentimes people who commit upskirting are using devices on their shoes or other support items. If a person is behaving in a strange way, standing very close, be alert of unusual behaviour; especially involving phones or other types of cameras.
Advice: If you spot an upskirting incident or have fallen victim to an upskirting incident then seek help from others. Perpetrators are oftentimes aggressive if they have been found out and may threaten with physical violence when asked to delete the photos or videos.
Advice: Be aware that police oftentimes are not aware of upskirting laws. Therefore, be sure to know the legal situation in your country in order to report an upskirting incident.
Here we highlight prominent cases.
Gina Martin was with her sister at the British Summer Time music festival in Hyde Park in 2018 when two men with their phones took a picture up her skirt. She took their phone to the security guards, who then called the police.
Festivals are common locations where upskirting photos are being taken. No matter where women are or how they are dressed, it never gives anyone permission to take unwanted photos of their most intimate body parts. Gina Martin later introduced the law against upskirting in the UK.
Property developer Jonathan Drake, 47, kept hundreds of clips of women he had filmed without their permission on the computer at his home in Wenvoe, Wales. His wife complained about him to the South Wales police after discovering the images and videos. Some of those included clips taken in public toilets. The court found him guilty and he was jailed for 14 months and ordered to register as a sex offender for 10 years.
This case shows that upskirting images are part of a wider array of violence that is being perpetrated against women. Such criminal offences hardly happen in isolation and are oftentimes linked to a scene in which men support each other to take non-consensual photos of women and share them online.
Image-based sexual abuse has become more widespread in the past decade with the increasing prevalence and use of smartphones and digital cameras. The heightened visibility of these crimes has led to increased recognition of their seriousness and impact, with new laws and regulations developed to combat them.
According to each country data protection and privacy rights differ.
Until 2019, offenders could only be prosecuted for voyeurism or outraging public decency. But voyeurism would only apply to filming in “private” while outraging public decency usually requires a witness – and upskirting often goes unobserved. Within the new law, the government has created a specific offence of upskirting where the purpose is to obtain sexual gratification or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm. The new offences apply in instances when:
Law: Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019
(Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019)
‘Upskirting’ was made illegal in Scotland in 2010 by the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 when it was listed under the wider definition of voyeurism. The act expands the definition of voyeurism contained in the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009. Before this amendment, voyeurism applied only to observing or filming a person doing ‘a private act’, making it difficult to prosecute offences that happened when the victim was simply walking down the street or using public transport. The new law includes ‘operat[ing] equipment beneath [a person’s] clothing, but it also specifies that an act constitutes voyeurism if committed with one of two purposes:
Law: Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010
(Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010)
France amended a bill on sexual violence and street harassment to make “filming of improper images” a criminal offence and punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to €30,000. Legislators passed those amendments since upskirting was becoming a crucial issue and concern in France, particularly on public transports such as trains and buses.
Law: Law No. 2018-703 of 3 August 2018
(Combating sexual and gender-based violence – Senate)
The Ecolo-Groen group in the Parliament is introducing a bill to fill a gap in the legislation on voyeurism. Now that is only punishable when the victim is naked. In Belgium, voyeurism has been punishable as such since 1 February 2016.
Law: Belgium Criminal Code (article 371/1)
(LOI – WET (fgov.be))
A Bill has passed into a law amending the Penal Code to penalize voyeuristic behaviour, which includes filming or photographing a person naked or in their underwear without their knowledge. The new amendment also addresses any voyeurism-related behaviour, such as filming a person changing in a locker room without their permission, knowledge or filming under women’s skirts. Furthermore, the bill also suggests aggravating circumstances if the victim is minor, the incident has happened on public transport, or the photo/video has been circulated on social media. The sanctions outlined in the bill are fine up to 15,000 euros and imprisonment of between two months and two years. The change was inspired by a case from 2017, where a man had repeatedly filmed under women’s skirts on public transport, using a hidden camera in a handbag. The women brought charges against the man, but the case had to be closed due to lack of legal means.
Law: Luxembourg Criminal Code
(Journal officiel du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg)
On October 14, 2020, an amendment to the German Criminal Code that makes upskirting a crime was published in the German Federal Law Gazette. Upskirting refers to the act of taking photos or videos under women’s clothing without permission. The amendment will enter into force on January 1, 2021. The new provision is included in the chapter on sex offences. It criminalizes three different types of actions. It prohibits
Law: German Criminal Code
(Perma | Criminal Code)
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