Massachusetts Legislation Passes ‘Upskirting’ Bill

By Danielle Chudolij
BU News Service

Boston-area women can soon stop worrying about the undergarments (or lack thereof) beneath their skirts while riding public transportation.

Acting with record speed, members of the Massachusetts House and Senate approved a bill Thursday that criminalizes the taking and dissemination of “upskirt” photographs and carries a $5,000 fine and/or up to two and a half years in jail.

The fast-tracked bill comes a day after the Supreme Judicial Court dropped the charges against Michael Robertson, who was arrested in 2010 by Boston public transit police for allegedly taking photos and video up female public transit riders’ skirts.

According to the high court, it is not illegal under existing Massachusetts law to take photos under women’s skirts in public spaces because their dresses or skirts, regardless of what is underneath, do not render them as nude or semi-nude, as required by existing law. It is only illegal to take such photographs in bathrooms and fitting rooms.

The ruling created an uproar across social media and throughout the city. Not one person, during random man on the street interviews, agreed with the current law and hoped for an amendment immediately. One of those voices belonged to Nikos Rakis, 26, of Back Bay.

“I think it’s disgusting that it’s not a law,” said Rakis. “I would not be happy if I saw someone taking pictures up my girlfriend’s skirt.”

Many people are impressed with the Legislature’s speed in getting the bill approved and made into a law, including state Sen. Mark C. Montigny, D-New Bedford.

“I’m very proud to stand in this body and go home from this deliberation tonight and tell the people who send me letters that it has already been taken care of,” said Montigny. “Just to say I’m proud would be an understatement.”

The current law was passed in 2004, when smart-phone technology was not as advanced and widespread.

“We constantly have to update these laws. This is morally reprehensible,” Senate President Therese Murray told reporters.

The unusually fast-moving bill was passed by the House and then moved to the Senate, which passed the “upskirting” bill unanimously, 39-0, Thursday around 5 p.m. The bill has been passed to Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk and should be signed by Friday morning.

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