The intrusive practice of taking photos up a woman's skirt is not always covered by current laws.

By Claire Zillman
September 6, 2017

The British government on Tuesday indicated that it’s considering legislation to ban “upskirting,” the intrusive practice of taking surreptitious photos, usually of women, usually in crowded areas like buses or trains.

Justice Secretary David Lidington said he’s getting legal counsel on whether upskirting can be added to the Sexual Offences Act of 2003. Consideration of the proposal comes after outcry from a 25-year-old woman named Gina Martin, who was left with no legal recourse when a man took a photo up her skirt at a festival in Hyde Park earlier this year.

She said the police officers she reported the incident to were friendly enough, but told her that they could not press charges against the man because he had “done nothing illegal.”

Upskirting is not always covered by laws against voyeurism, which pertain to acts done in private, or laws on outraging public decency, which require that an image is lewd or obscene.

“[T]he reaction was as bad as what that creepy man did to me,” Martin told the Evening Standard. “[Y]oung women are not protected by the law when they ask for help.”

So Martin took matters into her own hands, starting a petition to ban upskirting. It received some 63,000 signatures, including that of Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon, who publicized his support of Martin’s efforts. “I was proud to sign up to the campaign,” he said.

Martin, for her part, says women are too often encouraged “to brush off” incidents like hers because “it’s not a massive deal.” She chose to defy that advice. “[I]t’s harassment,” she says of acts like upskirting, “and it’s happening all the time.”

A version of this article first appeared in Fortune‘s World’s Most Powerful Women newsletter. Subscribe here.

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