Who knew that one young lady’s humiliating experience at a music festival would lead to 100,000 petition signatures, a private member’s bill and support from the Prime Minister on her own campaign concerning it?
Gina Martin had an upskirt image taken of her last year; an offence that is not currently prosecutable under English laws. In launching a campaign called ‘Stop Skirting the Issue‘, to make upskirting a criminal offence, she has forced this cause into the House of Commons. The bill would have surely passed with ease on Friday 15th June if not for the swift objection of recently knighted Tory MP, Sir Christopher Chope. He seems to be standing alone against the bill, having received much backlash from other MPs, particularly his fellow party members.
Gina Martin, anti-upskirting campaigner (Source: ITV)
Chope’s objection says far more than simply ‘I object’. For the upskirting victims – females of all ages, as young as even ten – it is an aggressive attempt to muzzle their cry for justice. The campaign was progressing with almost full support from the government, until Chope tripped the campaign on the final lap of its year-long marathon. It’s all too bitter a reminder of the misogyny that prevails behind closed doors until somebody knocks. And Gina Martin is certainly knocking with force. It sounds like Chope is uncomfortable with holding vile men accountable for their behaviour.
The objection has also greatly troubled the Conservative party. Theresa May is disappointed in the delay and hopes to see the bill passed “soon”. Tory MP Simon Clarke claims Chope has
“embarrassed himself with his actions” and Paul Masterton states that decisions like this do sizeable damage to the party’s public reputation.
Meanwhile, the shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler has called on Theresa May to show that “there’s no place in the Tory party for Christopher Chope”. Clearly Chope is at best unconcerned with, and at worst, adamantly against the protection of the vulnerable, and the rest of the UK is not impressed.
Despite the ugly face of Chope’s decision, the heart, (or lack thereof), behind it could save his reputation from falling below that of the upskirting perpetrators themselves. Having spoken with him, Gina Martin says that he “wasn’t really sure” on the content of the bill but he objected “on principle”. Out of touch and insensitive as it may be, Chope is more interested in private member bills being subject to scrutiny than the actual bills themselves. He, along with several other backbench Tories, gives himself the job of ensuring proposed legislation is actually debated over, and he has been faithful to this for 20 years. On the same day, he also delayed the advancement of the bill proposing that attacking police/prison officer dogs and horses becomes a criminal offence.
Evidently, initial outrage may be justified but not necessarily well informed. Sir Christopher Chope’s objection certainly warrants a loss of respect and perhaps criticism, however this is not a matter of his condoning upskirting, but rather an undying commitment to principles and a dash of ignorance.