What is downblousing? Why it may be made illegal

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Legal experts are calling for it to be an illegal offense to take photos of a person’s top without their consent.

New proposals aim to protect people from the act known as downblousing, as well as victims of intimate image abuse and Revenge Porn by changing applicable laws in England and Wales.

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Also recommended was a ban on sharing pornographic deepfakes, which are images and videos that have been altered to replace the original face with someone else’s.

Upskirting is a covert type of abuse, usually in which someone takes a picture under a person’s clothing, usually upskirt as the name suggests, without them knowing.

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So what are the current laws, what changes are the experts calling for and how has the government responded?

Here’s everything you need to know.

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Legal experts are calling for it to become an illegal offense to take photos of a person’s top without their consent in England and Wales.

What law now applies in England and Wales?

In England and Wales acts such as upskirting or voyeurism are criminalised, but there is no specific law on downblousing.

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A new upskirting law came into force on April 12, 2019 across England and Wales. It has been illegal in Scotland since 2010. In March, the Northern Ireland Assembly passed new legislation criminalizing upskirting.

The Law Commission’s recommendations would further expand these laws to cover photographing a woman’s bra, cleavage or breasts in England and Wales.

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Which law now applies in Northern Ireland and Scotland?

This offense is already regulated by law in Northern Ireland.

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Northern Ireland Justice Minister Naomi Long, who has strengthened law in this area in Northern Ireland, told the BBC those convicted of the offense will face up to two years in prison.

She said: “New offenses have been created for upskirting, downblousing and cyber-flashing, with those convicted facing a maximum of two years in prison.

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“I believe these new regulations will provide greater protection in Northern Ireland and will have a real, tangible and positive impact on victims.”

Upskirting has been banned in Scotland since 2010, as the Sexual Offenses (Scotland) Act 2009, which outlaws sex crimes, was amended to include upskirting within an expanded definition of voyeurism.

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Prosecution of the crime in Scotland has remained low since it came under the scope, with an average of three upskirting prosecutions per year between 2011 and 2018.

What are the proposals to change the law?

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The recommendations come from the Law Commission, which reviews and updates the legislation.

  • It would be a criminal offense for someone to intentionally take or share an intimate picture of a person without their consent
  • This new basic offense would apply regardless of the offender’s motivation and could result in a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment
  • Anyone who takes or shares an intimate image without consent to obtain sexual gratification or to cause humiliation, alarm or fear, threatens to share an intimate image, or installs hidden devices is punishable by two to three years imprisonment will

Professor Penney Lewis, Justice Commissioner for Criminal Justice, said: “Sharing intimate images of someone without their consent can be incredibly distressing and damaging to victims, with the experience often scarring them for life.

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“Current laws on taking or sharing sexual or nude images of someone without their consent are inconsistent, based on a narrow set of motivations, and do not go far enough to cover disruptive and abusive new behaviors that have emerged in the smartphone era.”

How did the government react?

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The government said it will carefully consider the recommendations.

A government spokesman said: “Nearly 1,000 perpetrators have been convicted since we banned the laws Revenge Porn.

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“With the Online Safety Lawwe will force internet companies to better protect people from a range of image-based abuse, including deepfakes.

“But we have asked the commission to look at whether the law could be further tightened to keep the public safe.

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“We will carefully consider their recommendations and act on them in due course.”

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