Gina Martin: 'How I got the law changed and made upskirting illegal'

Cara McGoogan
Gina Martin launched a campaign to ban upskirting after she became a victim at a festival  - Gina Martin /Instagram 

When the House of Lords yesterday approved a ban on upskirting – the taking of a non-consensual photo of another person's genitals – tears rolled down Gina Martin's cheeks. For the past 18 months she had fought tirelessly to make the practice illegal and give police the tools to prosecute after she herself became a victim

"I wanted to cry continuously," says Martin. "It's been exhausting but I'm over the moon, because it's very much needed." 

Under the new legislation, which is awaiting Royal Assent, perpetrators could be jailed for up to two years. 

Martin was at the British Summertime Festival in Hyde Park, London in July 2017 when a man bent down and took a photo up her skirt. Unaware that he had done so, Martin later saw the picture over the man's friend's shoulder and grabbed the phone.

She ran to the police, chased by the perpetrator, only to be told that they had no power to do anything about it. She then discovered that the offence wasn't actually covered by the law and that 'upskirters' could act with impunity. 

So she decided to start a campaign to get upskirting made illegal under the Sexual Offences Act of 2003. Within days of launching her petition, 50,000 people had signed it

Since then, hundreds of women and children – some as young as 13 – have got in touch with Martin to ask for advice and share their stories of being upskirted. 

According to figures from February 2018, there were 78 incidents of upskirting reported in a two year period and 11 suspects were charged. The data, revealed in a freedom of information request, showed girls as young as 10 had been victims.  

"There are a lot of people who are relying on this law," says a victorious Martin. "It means agency over your own body, and the power to be able to take things into your own hands and get justice when your body is treated as if it's public property. I didn't have that opportunity when it happened to me."  

The upskirting ban, which has been in place in Scotland since 2010, is the result of a "massive grass roots campaign" led by Martin and lawyer Ryan Whelan, from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

The campaign wasn't without setbacks: MP Christopher Chope blocked the bill in June last year. But Theresa May vowed to push the law change through and described upskirting as a "hideous invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed". 

"I want to encourage people that if they're not happy with something, to go ahead and change it," says Martin, who works full time in advertising and campaigned before work, at the weekends and during her holidays. "I'm a regular person who can barely afford to live in London, but I managed this." 

Next, Martin pans to work with the police on training, and help music festivals and events organisers make their spaces safer. But for now, she has popped the champagne.