An attempt to make upskirting a criminal offense in the United Kingdom, punishable by up to two years in prison, has been blocked by a lawmaker in the ruling Conservative Party.
The 71-year-old Sir Christopher Chope ended debate on the legislation by formally objecting to it as it was being read in the lower house of parliament. He did not give a reason, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment by News time.
Upskirting – the act of taking a picture up a woman’s skirt without her consent – has been the subject of a campaign by Gina Martin, a member of the public who was a victim of upskirting, who said she was “extremely upset and disappointed” by the objection.
Earlier on Friday the bill looked set to become law, after Prime Minister Theresa May’s government gave it its backing. But Chope’s objection means the law will have to be debated again at a later date due to a packed parliamentary timetable leaving insufficient time for immediate talks.
Upskirting is currently not a specific criminal offense in the U.K. The proposed bill would put it in line with other voyeurism offenses, closing what Martin, 25, called a “gap in the law.” Martin was upskirted in 2017, but was unable to prosecute after police deemed the image not obscene enough because she was wearing underwear.
The practice is not a crime at a federal level in the U.S., but Massachusetts state lawmakers outlawed the practice in 2014. However the same year, a Texas court upheld its citizens’ constitutional right to take upskirt photos, referencing the right to freedom of speech.
The U.K. legislation bears similarities to attempts to criminalize ‘revenge porn’ in the United States. In April, a California court ruled David K Elam II should pay $6.4 million in damages to his ex-girlfriend, after uploading naked images of her online.
Lawmaker Wera Hobhouse, who tabled the law in the U.K. Parliament, said: “Upskirting is a depraved violation of privacy. It is outrageous that a single member of Parliament has today been able to derail a much needed and universally supported change in the law.”
The bill is expected to be debated again on July 6.