Human Rights

Outrage Sparked at Court Ruling that Says Peeping Tom 'Upskirt' Pictures Are Legal

This disturbing legal loophole protecting perverts is a slap in the face for women.

Watch out ladies! Peeping toms have just been given the okay to take pictures up your skirt because, well, in public you have no expectation of privacy under your clothing!

The Massachusetts’ High Court in a highly contentious ruling dismissed a case against a man, Michael Robertson, who snapped secret pictures up numerous ladies’ skirts on a Boston train because the women were not “nude or partially nude,” Reuters reported.

The court ruled that peeping tom laws only shield people against unwanted exposure in private settings like bathrooms and dressing rooms, but did not extend to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

"A female passenger on a MBTA trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is 'partially nude,' no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing," the court unanimously ruled.

Apart from being a major slap in the face for women and defying all common sense, the decision can be seen as implicitly condoning behavior that constitutes sexual harassment.

“It’s a violation for the person who is unknowingly getting their body photographed,” Gina Scaramella, executive director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center explained. “People wear clothing for a reason and having someone violate that privacy is a real problem.” 

Likewise, Laurie Myers, of Chelmsford, founder of Community Voices, a victims' advocacy group, expressed her disdain:

"What a complete disgrace. As a woman and a mother it just turns your stomach they can come down with a decision" like this, that "women don't have a right to privacy,” she told Lowell Sun News.

The Massachusetts ruling has sparked outrage over its possible ramifications on the right to privacy in the other states and its potential to open the floodgates to former peeping tom challenges on the grounds that the victim was not completely nude.

Yet, this is not the first time the law has failed women in this regard.  In Washington in 2002, lawmakers closed a loophole in the state’s voyeurism laws after a similar incident.  New York and Florida have since passed laws criminalizing upskirt photos.

The news of the decision has triggered a firestorm of protest with many taking to social media to express their disgust at the decision, especially on Twitter. Some of the responses:

Sooo its legal to take a picture up my skirt but its illegal to be a peeping tom? Okay

Upskirting' - WTF? Why Smart Ladies in Boston are wearing pants!!

Sounds like it's time for Mass to revisit this "Peeping Tom" law.

Peepingtom grossly invaded peoples' privacy and is now hiding behind the 1st Amendment. Shameful.

It seems living in a technological era where it is all too easy to take photos and videos on our phones has impacted upon the right to privacy in ways that weren’t contemplated or in existent when these laws were initially drafted. 

As such, the legislature has a hard time keeping up with these advances in modern technology, as we saw with the online revenge porn phenomenon, leaving major gaps in the law that infringe upon our civil protections. 

In response, the District Attorney, Dan Conley has called upon the legislature to act fast take steps to immediately criminalize the act to which Senate President Therese Murray said the Senate will respond quickly.

"We have fought too hard and too long for women's rights to take the step backward.  I am in disbelief that the courts would come to this kind of decision and outraged at what it means for women's privacy and public safety.”

 

Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.

 

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