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Activism

How Gina Martin changed the conversation on upskirting

She was responsible for making upskirting illegal in 2019 but Gina Martin’s activism journey is far from over.

For many, changing the law would be the pinnacle of achievement. However, this was only the beginning for Gina Martin.

Since Martin, 30, campaigned to make upskirting illegal in Britain and Wales in 2019 she has grown her online profile as an activist, writer, speaker, and Ambassador for UN Women UK and Beyond Equality.

With over 108,000 followers on Instagram she has made a name for herself in the world of political activism, educating them on a number of social political issues in the UK and the globe.

In 2017, Martin was at the British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park with her sister waiting for The Killers to come on stage when she noticed an image of a woman’s thighs and underwear on a man’s phone screen, only to discover in horror that the woman was her.

Following the incident, she started a high-profile social media campaign and petition, which gathered more than 110,000 signatures.

During the campaign she was flooded with thousands of messages from upskirting victims. 

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“There were 1000s of people contacting me, like an 80-year-old woman, who had been upskirted in the supermarket. Teachers, 12- and 14-year-old girls,” Martin told The Big Issue.  

“I started to get lots of messages from the same place and I realised that they were coming from a school in South London in Croydon. A teacher had been upskirting the kids for years, and they had 1000s of photos.” 

She was encouraged to take her advocacy to a new level, launching a political campaign and court case. After an 18-month battle, she won. 

Recent research has shown that a total of 48 men and one teenage boy were prosecuted for 128 offences under the Voyeurism (Offences) Act between 1 April 2020 and 30 June 2021. 

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A report from UN Women UK has shown that 71 per cent of women of all ages have experienced some form of sexual harassment in a public space.

“We started a good conversation through the campaign,” Martin said. “Now when I go on Google, I point out upskirting; it’s all about what is upskirting? Why is it happening? It’s all about misogyny and sexism. No longer is it about porn, which I’m proud of.” 

Despite her campaign’s success in igniting debates about misogyny and sexism, the fight for women’s rights is far from over.

In 2021, the high-profile murder cases of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa prompted a national call to protect women.  

The latest statistics from ONS have shown 177 women were murdered in England and Wales between April 2020 to March 2021.

Even though progress has been slow in tackling the problem organisations such as Beyond Equality try to help solve the problem.

Beyond Equality is an organisation that educates men to preventing gender-based violence, conducting workshops in schools and universities.  

Martin has been a long-time advocate of their work. 

“I’ve known about them since 2017. I’ve followed their work because the way that they do the work is the way we solve the problem or start to solve it. They engage men and boys on gender, equality and feminism,” she said. 

“They get you to unpick what gender means and why we act in the way we do. Why we treat people differently because of their gender.”

Recent statistics show that in 2021, 40,572 women were victims of sexual assault in England and Wales, the highest number of sexual offences was recorded within a 12-month period.

Martin shares her experience, going into schools with Beyond Equality.  

“Girls are just effervescent they’re like, yes! They don’t have an option to talk about sexual harassment, sexism and gender double standards. They don’t feel necessarily comfortable doing it with the teachers because they feel like they’ll get in trouble.”

She continues: “Boys really struggle in my experience with me, because my background is sexual harassment. Before I’ve even stepped in the room, they automatically assume I’m going to be in there and be like you’re the problem, which is not what I do. It’s very hard to get them to open up, which is why I think doing it through Beyond Equality is much more helpful”. 

In June 2021, the Department of Education announced that school and college leaders will be provided with training and support to deal with sexual harassment.

Beyond Equality also provide teacher training to help teachers at the frontline in the fight against gender-based violence and misogyny.

“We’re trying to connect teachers across the UK who want to do more in the fight for gender equality, sexual harassment and male violence,” Martin said. “Teachers really care but they’re super overworked and underpaid. We’re trying to get teachers to a place where they feel confident and they can start to have conversations.”

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