Germany makes upskirting illegal and promises harsh penalties

Upskirting, the act of secretly photographing under a person's clothes without consent, will be a criminal offence in Germany. Those who are caught will face a fine or up to two years in prison.

Germany makes upskirting illegal and promises harsh penalties
Women in Berlin enjoying the warm weather recently. Photo: DPA

The Bundestag passed a law early on Friday that means taking illicit photographs of someone under a person's clothes, such as under their skirt or of their neckline, will become illegal in Germany.

If anyone is caught doing this they can be hit with a fine or a prison sentence of up to two years. It is expected that the law will come into force this autumn.

“To photograph under a woman's skirt or her cleavage area is a shameless violation of her privacy,” said Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).

Lambrecht, who pushed through the new law, said this behaviour is unacceptable.

The new legislation will also criminalise photographing victims of accidents or pictures that “display a dead person in a grossly offensive way,” said Lambrecht.

READ ALSO: Germany approves bill to ban upskirting

'Important step'

The change in law has been fuelled by campaigners Ida Marie Sassenberg and Hanna Seidel from the southern German city of Ludwigsburg who launched an online petition last year to ban upskiriting in Germany. It has gathered more than 109,000 signatures.

Seidel welcomed the new law. “It is a great symbol of justice, politics and society,” the 29-year-old said. “Its symbolic value should not be underestimated.”

Following the petition, the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland took up the issue and started legislative initiatives in the Bundesrat.

Seidel said that the federal law does not completely solve the problem. “A lot still needs to happen in society. But it's a right and very important step,” she said.

Nils Pickert from the feminist organisation Pinkstinks said that upskirting often takes place in large crowds, such as on buses and trains, at festivals or in clubs and bars.

“There are people who put cameras in public toilets to film women,” Pickert said. The photos are often for personal use, but can be shared with friends or on the Internet.

Pickert said this kind of sexualised violence “must be taken seriously as an issue and this must be reflected in the punishment”.

Tightening criminal law

Johannes Fechner, the SPD's legal policy spokesman in the Bundestag, said victims of these attacks often do not realise they have been photographed.

Up until now upskirting has only been punished in Germany as an administrative offence with small fines, which has not deterred offenders. “Therefore we are closing an important gap in punishing here, and tightening the criminal law at this point,” said Fechner.

Jan-Marco Luczak, legal policy spokesman for the centre-right CDU/CSU parliamentary group, said secret photography is unfortunately becoming more widespread as everyone carries phones with cameras. “As legislators, we are taking decisive action against it,” he said.

The assaults are humiliating and hurtful to victims and often have far-reaching psychological consequences, Luczak added.

The act of upskirting is criminalised already in some countries across the world, including Scotland, India, New Zealand and Finland. It also became a criminal offence in England and Wales in 2019 after a campaign.

As well as the law on taking illicit photographs, the Bundestag also passed a ban on tobacco advertising as well as a voucher scheme for package holidaymakers.

If a trip cannot be taken due to coronavirus, tour operators will in future be able to offer their customers vouchers. Customers can opt for a refund of the money paid, or for the voucher.

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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.