Theresa May – and her entire government – has promised to introduce a law against “upskirting”, after a Private Members’ Bill seeking to criminalise the offence last week failed.
“Upskirting”, for those who are not familiar with the neologism, is the rude and unpleasant action of a man (usually a man) secretly taking a photograph of a woman at such an angle that the picture peers up the lady’s skirt.
The campaigner Gina Martin – who herself had been “upskirted” – succeeded in getting a Lib Dem MP to propose the bill, but it failed when the Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope shouted “Object”.
Sir Christopher has been called, among other things, a “knuckle-dragging” reactionary, though he subsequently explained that his objection was procedural, not substantial. And Mrs May, as well as the minister for women Victoria Atkins, are resolved to use Government time to criminalise upskirting.
Personally, I think a rush to legislate is highly questionable. Upskirting is vulgar, intrusive and even odious, but it seems to me inappropriate, and disproportionate, to make it a criminal offence, for which a man could serve two years in prison.
Not every reprehensible human act can, or should, be regulated by yet another law, backed by the imposition of a prison sentence. Sometimes a wrongful or injurious action should be met with a reprimand, a public shaming or even social stigma. We don’t always need more legislation to deal with every social or moral offence.
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