• Tuesday, April 23, 2024


Law chiefs want downblousing to be made a criminal offence in England and Wales

The act of taking photos down a woman’s top without her content will soon be illegal


By: Kimberly Rodrigues

The Law Commission is demanding that the government make “downblousing” or the act of taking photos down a woman’s top without her content, illegal in England and Wales.

A report in the BBC states that the Law Commission, which reviews and updates legislation, also wants to ban the sharing of sharing pornographic deepfakes without a woman’s consent.

Currently, the acts such as upskirting or voyeurism are criminalized in England and Wales, but the recommendations are expected to be extended further to include the act of photographing a woman’s bra, cleavage or breasts.

According to the report published in BBC, the key proposals are as follows:

• It would be an offence for someone to intentionally take or share an intimate image of a person without their consent

• This new base offence would apply regardless of the perpetrator’s motivation and could lead to a maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment

• If someone takes or shares an intimate image without consent to obtain sexual gratification, or to cause humiliation, alarm or distress, threatens to share an intimate image, or installs hidden equipment, they could receive a sentence of two to three years’ imprisonment

Prof Clare McGlynn, from Durham University, is reported to have said that the Law Commission’s proposals are a welcome step – especially making the taking or sharing of an intimate image without consent a base offence.

“The breach of privacy and breach of consent is the core wrong, so it’s right to focus on that,” she said.

In 2015, Emily Hunt was filmed naked in a hotel room while she was unconscious. She spent five years campaigning for her perpetrator to be brought to justice. Speaking about her experience she told the BBC, “It completely derailed my life.”

Prosecutors had told Ms Hunt that what the man did was not illegal, until the law was clarified by the Court of Appeal.

She added, “They told me it was not against the law to video someone naked if you were in the same room as them. I started campaigning, trying to let politicians know that they need up-to-date laws.

“The current ‘patchwork’ of criminal offences has not kept pace with how technology is evolving.”

The commission has looked into how videos and images can be manipulated due to sophisticated technology, which means there are more pornographic deepfakes and the original face can be replaced with another face. They have also taken into consideration the technology that allows users to “nudify” pictures.

Keeping all of these factors in mind, the commission wants that victims be provided anonymity for life. This is because the perpetrators can evade prosecution due to gaps in the law and go unpunished even after causing long-term harm and severe distress to the ones targeted.

Prof McGlynn adds that the proposed recommendations are “long overdue.”

She said, “We really do need prompt action because the government and politicians could have taken steps years ago and saved thousands of young people from being harmed by intimate image abuse.

“And that’s what we need to remember – every day that we’re not introducing these new laws, people, especially young women, are being harmed, and some of these harms are life-threatening.”

A government spokesman is reported to have said, “With the Online Safety Bill, we will force internet firms to protect people better from a range of image-based abuse – including deepfakes.”

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