Wera's Private Members Bill aims to make 'upskirting' a specific criminal offence. She introduced it to Parliament on the 6th March 2018, two days before international women's day.
Upskirting is the practice of taking a photo from beneath someone without their knowledge or consent. The issue has been championed by campaigner Gina Martin after falling victim to the practice over the summer.
The current law doesn’t cover upskirting in many circumstances. It can be prosecuted under outraging public decency, but this relies on other people being able to see the photo, not the act itself. Voyeurism laws fall down if the victim isn’t in a private place; there’s nothing to protect victims in crowds for example.
The bill is very similar to legislation in Scotland which was introduced in 2009, and covers all acts of upskirting, regardless of the gender of the victim.
Campaigners, Police and Crime Commissioners and politicians have all called for upskirting to be made a specific criminal offence, and based on a poll run by ITV, 96% of the public support the move.
The bill has been supported by celebrities such as Holly Willoughby, Laura Whitmore and Dermot O’Leary; many celebrities fall victim to upskirting by the paparazzi.
The second reading of the bill was moved from the 11th of May to the 15th of June, to give the Ministry of Justice time to iron out details before committing fully to the bill.
On Friday the 15th of June, the bill to make upskirting a specific criminal offence was read to the chamber. Sir Christopher Chope objected and subsequently blocked the bill. Cries of ‘shame’ rang out with national outrage to follow. He flew in the face of his government, Number 10, and the general public in blocking the bill.
Chope had been lobbied by Wera herself, as well as his peers to make him see sense before the reading, but to no avail. He also blocked bills on the same day to make it illegal to stab police dogs and to give careers free parking.
Following the outcry, the government has adopted my bill. This means the second reading has been moved forward to the 2nd of July, and the government fully intend on progressing the bill through the house as quickly as possible. This demonstrates just how popular and uncontroversial this bill truly is.
The support of Minister for Women, Victoria Atkins as well as Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice Lucy Frazer has been much appreciated in the fight to make this a criminal offence.
Wera is currently working very closely with the government to get this over the line to culminate a successful campaign. It has been a long fight, but one that Wera has been very happy to be a part of. The campaign has championed the rights of women up and down the country, and is a victory for everyone.