Upskirt Laws: Massachusetts Rushes Into Action

UpskirtUpskirt laws in America are not as strong as one would believe them to be. Massachusetts legislators rushed into action when they learned their up skirt laws were allowing women to be violated and the violators were protected. In 2010 Michael Robertson was arrested for taking photos of a woman on public transit without her knowledge. Robertson was found to have several personal images on his cell phone of women he had taken while holding his camera under the skirts of unsuspecting women.

The city of Boston was in shock to learn that taking photos up the skirts of women was not illegal.  The case of Michael Robertson was taken all the way to the Massachusetts Supreme Court where it was found to be his right to take such photos. One day after that ruling the Massachusetts state legislature immediately went to work to fast track changes to make such activities a misdemeanor that included jail time and fines. Governor Duval Patrick took no time at all to sign the bill into law. Some feel that misdemeanor is not strong enough. Many felt it necessary to classify such actions as a sex crime, but many legislators caved to the lesser charges to assure the bill would pass.

What is not understood is how the Massachusetts Supreme Court could come to the conclusion that Robertson had a right to take such personal photos. The Video Voyeurism Prevention Act, which was already signed into law in 2004, clearly protects individuals against such invasive acts. The law reads, “the Federal criminal code prohibits knowingly videotaping, photographing, filming, recording by any means, or broadcasting an image of a private area of an individual, without that individual’s consent under circumstances in which that individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.” The law defines a “private area” as, “the naked or undergarment clad genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breast of an individual.” The court ruled that the act of photographing up a woman’s skirt did not violate the law because the women who were photographed were not nude or partially nude. Yet the law clearly does not state the individual must be naked when it states “undergarment clad” areas. Luckily for the women of Massachusetts the legislature was willing to rush into action to remedy any loopholes in the upskirt law that courts could manipulate in favor of the accuser over the victim.

This is not just a Massachusetts problem; in Texas an assistant football and track coach in San Antonio was fired for photographing his female students without their knowledge, but he wasn’t charged under a law that would protect women from private photos being taken without their knowledge, but charged for improper relations with under-aged girls. Wednesday’s ruling was a shock to women everywhere and opened the eyes of legislators across the nation. Yet there is still a contingency that believe these laws protecting women is a battle against their 1st Amendment rights. In more states than not the battle to protect women against predatory behavior has failed miserably simply because it has not been made priority.

There has been a lack of priority in protecting women against predators. The Senate bill to protect women raped in the military was blocked by just five votes. The argument that this is a larger, more difficult issue to combat losses momentum when legislators have the ability to act within 72 hours of such a travesty in the court system and rush into action to combat issues like upskirt violations. Upskirt violations are violations against women. Any laws to protect women and children can be rectified with swift action if our elected officials would simply make it a priority.

Opinion by Kimberly Beller

Sources:
CNN
The Daily Beast
The Christian Science Monitor

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