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Upskirting: How one woman fought back and changed the law

Gina Martin was at a music gig in Hyde Park when a man took a photo up her skirt. She later saw the picture on his friend's phone and realised it was of her.

It made her so angry that she launched a campaign against "upskirting". Eighteen months later, legislation has been passed to make it a crime in England and Wales.

Gina spoke to Matthew Price on Beyond Today about her experience of getting the law passed.

Here are five things we learned about how to change the law…

1. Turn a negative into a positive

When Gina found out that police had dropped the case against the man who took the photo, she knew it wasn’t right and she was angry about it.

“I’m so bored of brushing this stuff off,” she tells Matthew Price. “People shouting at you from cars, someone grabbing your arse in a bar. As a young woman, I was over being like, ‘OK, I guess you’re right. Like that’s part of life.'”

Gina decided to turn this negative experience into a positive one, shining a light on loopholes in the law and bringing about the change she felt needed to happen.

2. Get a public response and turn that response into a movement

After Gina realised there was no specific criminal offence which could be used to prosecute upskirting, she was motivated to share an image of the men responsible. The image went viral.

Gina was asked by Facebook to take the image down because it was classed as “harassment”. This further motivated Gina to take action and she contacted TV producers, showing them how much support the subject had gathered online and how it was getting media interest for the issue.

“It’s about getting enough people to support that idea first on social media,” she says. “The entire campaign has run on social media for the last two years. That’s why activism is so exciting now. You don’t have to have money. You can create a huge community shift with the internet.”

3. Set up a petition

Gina decided to start an online petition to make upskirting a sexual offence in England and Wales. She pushed the petition out to the 10,000 people who’d shown interest in her original Facebook post and contacted famous people who could share the petition. The petition was signed by over 100,000 people.

4. Find experts who can help you

Gina put out a call for lawyers who could help her change the law. She started looking up resources online and came across an organisation which suggested she contact lawyers who volunteer their time to people who need legal advice but aren’t in a position to pay for it.

Lawyer Ryan Whelan, who had knowledge of the upskirting law which was passed in Scotland ten years earlier, reached out to offer Gina legal support.

“I was like, that’s the guy!” she says. “I went and chatted to him for two hours and we became great friends and we went into partnership together. He taught me how to think politically. He taught me how to be strategic.”

5. Stay motivated and don’t take no for an answer

Gina and Ryan spoke to hundreds of MPs about their proposal with meetings going on for six months. Eventually, Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse tabled a private members bill which is a type of public bill that can be introduced by either members of the House of Commons or House of Lords who are not ministers.

The campaign had a setback when the Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope objected to the private member's bill, blocking it from going any further. The government then responded by backing the campaign and tabling a review.

“When they did that, we knew it couldn’t be objected to,” Gina recalls.

Although the bill has seen some hurdles, Gina stayed motivated: “It’s about getting in the room and convincing them and having people with you that they respect and will listen to. And convincing people on an individual level until you’ve built an army to push it through.”

Gina Martin's interview

Gina spoke to Matthew Price on Beyond Today about her experience of upskirting and getting the law passed.

Listen to the interview with Gina Martin

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