Taking a photo under a woman's skirt until now has brought only a small fine in Germany, which hasn't been much of a deterrent. "That is why we are closing a major criminal liability gap," said a spokesman for the ruling legislative coalition. The offense will now fall under criminal law; in addition to a fine, conviction can bring up to two years in prison, DW reports. The crime often happens in crowds. "There are people who distribute tiny cameras in public toilets to watch and film women," often putting the images online, an activist said. The law applies to photos of bustlines, as well. A person on an escalator could be acting as if they're on a cellphone, he said, while they instead are "photographing or filming your breasts." England, France, and some US states have approved similar laws in recent years.
A 28-year-old woman who's been a victim of "upskirting" launched a drive to change Germany's law. The second time it happened to her was more than a decade ago, per Reuters, when she was at a festival at age 16. "The perpetrator told me that it was my fault because I wore a skirt, so I would have wanted him to do it," Hanna Seidel said. Feeling unsafe, she didn't wear dresses or skirts for years. Legislators cited the impact on victims in announcing the new law. Seidel said teachers often tell young girls to avoid wearing skirts. "It's a double trauma: first something horrible happens to you and then additionally—you're blamed for it," she said. Another activist said that the offense should be classified as an act of sexual violence and that "this must also be reflected in the punishment." (It's happened to Miley Cyrus.)