(Image Source: https://flic.kr/p/6LUL9s)
This is the first in a two-part series by Deepthi Bavirisetty on the law on upskirt photography in USA, Japan and India. Deepthi is a 4th Year Law student at the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Calcutta. She is extremely interested in the intersection between gender and technology. She has previously authored a paper on Revenge Porn.
‘Upskirt’ photography, as the term suggests, refers to the voyeuristic practice of covertly taking pictures of women under their clothing without their consent or knowledge. These pictures, labeled ‘creepshots’, are generally pictures of a woman’s private areas. They are then widely disseminated via the internet, infamously through sites such as Reddit and 4chan.
In 2014, the legality of upskirt photography was brought into question before the US Courts across three different jurisdictions –Washington DC, Massachusetts and Texas. The first part of this post addresses the American perspective on the issue. It seeks to illustrate how America would rather err on the side of caution and permit the morally reprehensible acts of upskirt photography than curtail free speech. The second portion of the post looks into the Japanese perspective on creepshots, which is the polar opposite. Japan prioritizes women’s safety above free speech concerns. This portion of the post also looks into the curious phenomenon of cellphone manufacturers taking law into their own hands to regulate upskirt photography. I argue that this is a classic example of Lessig’s adage ‘code is law, law is code’. I conclude by extrapolating where India lies on the legal spectrum with regard to regulating upskirt photography.