LONDON (WASHINGTON POST) - British Prime Minister Theresa May said she was "disappointed" that an effort to make taking photos up someone's skirt without consent a criminal offense failed to advance in the House of Commons on Friday (June 15). Conservative lawmaker Christopher Chope was the only one to object to the bill, which was enough for it to be blocked.
The proposed measure would make the practice, known as "upskirting," punishable by up to two years in prison in England and Wales. Upskirting is already illegal in Scotland.
Last summer, Gina Martin was at a music festival in Britain when a man standing nearby snapped a photo up her skirt. But when she reported the incident to the police, they told her it was unlikely they would be able to follow up on it.
In an interview with the Guardian, she said the police told her: "We've looked at the photo; it shows more than you'd want it to show but you're not going to hear much from us. There's not much we can do." Their reasoning was that it didn't qualify as a crime under the current law because she had been wearing underwear.
So Martin decided to start a campaign to make the practice a criminal offense.
She got support from lawmakers, and on Friday, Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said the government would back the bill that Liberal Democrat lawmaker Wera Hobhouse introduced.
But when the bill was put forward in the House of Commons on Friday, Chope shouted "object!" He was met with booing and calls of "shame!" from other lawmakers.
On Twitter, May said "I want to see these measures pass through Parliament - with government support - soon."
Martin said she was "extremely upset and disappointed" and that she spoke to Chope after his objection and he agreed to meet with her to learn more about the bill.
Hobhouse, who introduced the bill, told the Guardian that she thinks "he hardly knows what upskirting is" but, instead, took issue that it was a private member's bill. "It is very, very annoying and frustrating that objections to procedure take precedence for him over the right thing to do." She intends to try again in July.
A number of lawmakers, even some from Chope's party, took to Twitter to criticise the move.
Lawmaker Paul Masterton tweeted, "Do not underestimate just how furious many Tory MPs are about this. This kind of thing does far more damage to the public's view of our party than endless debates about customs arrangements."
Frazer had called upskirting "a hideous invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed."
In one particularly high-profile upskirting case in Britain, an executive at the ticketing company Live Nation was caught with some 50,000 photos of strangers, including some he had taken by setting up a camera on his briefcase and positioning it under women's skirts.