Photographing Breastfeeding Women Without Consent Could Result In Two Years Imprisonment

·5-min read
Photo credit: PeopleImages - Getty Images
Photo credit: PeopleImages - Getty Images

Article updated on 07/01/2022: Following MP Stella Creasy's ‘Stop the Breast Pest’ campaign, a new measure has been put in place regarding breastfeeding voyeurism.

The Guardian reports that those who are caught committing the offence - which involves recording images or video of breastfeeding women without permission - could now face up to two years in prison following an amendment to the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill by the Ministry of Justice.

This new offence could apply in England and Wales.

Dominic Raab, the lord chancellor and justice secretary, told the publication: 'We will introduce a new offence to stop people filming or taking photos of mothers breastfeeding without their consent – because no new mum should be harassed in this way.'

Creasy has responded to the change, telling the same news outlet: 'That breast pests can now be stopped is testament to the hard work of campaigner Julia Cooper, Jeff Smith, Lady Helene Hayman and Lord Pannick. We all worked across both the Lords and Commons to make the government listen to our call for change.'

Article originally published on 29/11/2021: A new law could see people who photograph breastfeeding women without their permission jailed.

Following a campaign led by MP Stella Creasy, who had previously been photographed breastfeeding her four-month-old baby on a London overground train, justice secretary Dominic Raab is expected to make the act of voyeurism a criminal offence.

Creasy, who serves as MP for the Walthamstow labour party, has been working with the Labour MP for Manchester Withington, Jeff Smith, on a campaign aptly named ‘Stop the Breast Pest’.

The campaign - born from a conversation between Creasy and 32-year-old Julia Cooper, a constituent of Smith's - has set out to amend the Policing Bill.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Similarly to Creasy, Cooper spotted a man photographing her while she was breastfeeding.

She was snapped with what has been described as a long-lens camera, while she was breastfeeding alongside other mums in Manchester’s Sale Water Park, as reported by The Times.

At the time, no law was in place to make such an act a criminal offence, which the police explained to Cooper when she informed them of what had happened.

To combat such behaviour, Raab is expected to update the law in 2022 to make photographing breastfeeding women without their consent an offence.

And that’s not the only news to come from Raab’s much anticipated revision of current law.

Currently, victims have just six months within which to report any common law assault (‘any act by which a person intentionally or recklessly causes another to suffer or apprehend immediate unlawful violence’, as stated by the Crown Prosecution Service), but this is expected to be extended.

In addition, the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, is said to be reviewing myriad offences as a way of heralding more respect for women.

Creasy recalls feeling 'stunned' by the teenage boy who took the offending picture of her breastfeeding while on a train at Highbury and Islington.

Of the incident, Creasy said: ‘My daughter was crying and I realised the only thing that would calm her down was to feed her. I had to undo my coat and expose my breast,' The Times reported.

Creasy has also said that she originally believed the teenage boy had been playing with his camera but later realised he was taking pictures – and laughing while doing so.

The MP, who around the time of launching the campaign was pregnant with her second child, a baby boy, said: ‘I wondered whether he knew who I was and that was double the humiliation. I just wanted to get away but actually nobody should be put into that position. This is a form of harassment and voyeurism that should be stopped so you can feed in peace.’

While Creasy was too shocked to confront the boy who photographed her, Cooper on the other hand, took a different tactic, confronting the man with the camera. But despite asking the man repeatedly to delete the images he had taken of her, he refused.

Creasy, who most recently defended her decision to take her now three-month-old baby to parliament, launched the ‘Stop the Breast Pest’ initiative in hope that it would be supported by Conservative MPs and go on to be backed by the government.

As for Smith, he previously said: ‘When my constituent Julia contacted me about a man taking photos of her breastfeeding, I was shocked to find that there was no action that authorities could take to stop him. We must take this opportunity to change the law and protect mums from this kind of voyeurism.’

Prior to the law on photographing breastfeeding women being contemplated, upskirting (defined as ‘placing equipment such as a camera or mobile phone beneath a person’s clothing to take a voyeuristic photograph without their permission’, by the CPS) became a voyeurism offence, under the Sexual Offences Act, in 2019.

With ministers set to update the law again, it looks as though Creasy’s – and many other women’s – wishes are about to be granted, as further offences against women are set to be criminalised.

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