A teachers’ union boss says girls are increasingly worried about sexual harassment in school.
“Upskirting” is the practice of taking a photo under a girl’s or woman’s skirt.
And schoolgirls are having to wear shorts underneath their skirts to protect themselves from the intrusive practice, according to the leader of Britain’s largest teaching union.
Dr. Mary Bousted, co-general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said society had gone “backwards,” and argued that upskirting is the result of sexual harassment becoming normalised.
“That makes schools, for many girls, not a safe space,” Bousted told the Independent. “Although girls enjoy school and do well at it, they do not feel safe in school. And that leads to girls not willing to go into public spaces in school and girls wearing shorts underneath their skirts so that if anyone puts a phone up their skirts they are not going to photograph anything.”
Last year, a report from the NEU and UK Feminista found that 37% of girls in mixed sex education have experienced some form of sexual harassment at school, and 24% had been subjected to unwanted physical touching of a sexual nature.
And with more young people having access to camera technology on their smartphones, it’s becoming easier to take and share indecent images.
“It is highly unlikely someone would have brought in a camera and developed a photo — but with a camera phone you can just press a button and send it round,” Bousted added to the Daily Telegraph. “It can happen in an instant: sending it around, and then giving the name of the girl — that is the worst thing, the absolute humiliation, the embarrassment and shame. Social media just provides a new vehicle, another way that girls can be harassed.”
The Fawcett Society, a gender equality charity that defends women’s rights in the workplace (named after leading Suffragist Millicent Fawcett) has previously urged the British government to make upskirting illegal.
It’s already illegal in Scotland — and making it a criminal offence in England and Wales was also considered by justice secretary David Lidington in September after a campaign was launched by a young woman called Gina Martin last year.
Martin launched an online campaign to #StopSkirtingTheIssue and criminalise upskirting after two men photographed her at British Summertime Festival in London’s Hyde Park. The Metropolitan police refused to prosecute, and she has since gathered nearly 100,000 petition signatures to change the law and make it illegal under the Sexual Offences Act of 2003.
Now, Martin’s campaign has received cross-party support from MPs within the Conservatives, Labour Party, and Liberal Democrats, with champions including police high commissioners, and global law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.
She spoke about the issue live on ITV’s “This Morning” with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on March 22.