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Harvard students rally against upskirting

Posted by Lara Salahi  March 12, 2014 12:10 PM

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A group of Harvard graduate students are protesting what they say are severe flaws in a new state law banning photographing or videotaping up a woman's skirts -- known as "upskirting." The new law suggests that a woman may be upskirted with her knowledge, but not necessarily with her consent, the group says.

On Wednesday, Mar. 3, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that upskirting was legal because it deemed photographing or videotaping partial nudity without consent, the language did not encompass women wearing skirts. Nearly 48 hours later -- following public outrage -- Mass. Governor Deval Patrick disregarded the ruling and banned upskirting without a woman's knowledge.

Rory Gerberg, a graduate student of Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, wrote in an opinion piece in the Harvard Kennedy School Review that the law was signed with good intention, but is severely flawed.

The new law is intended to close the gap in legal protection by referring to “another person’s sexual or intimate parts,” which would imply protection for an individual who had certain parts exposed but did not intend to be partially nude. It makes illegal “secret photographing, videotaping, or electronically surveilling of another person’s sexual or other intimate parts, whether under or around a person’s clothing or when a reasonable person would believe that the person’s intimate parts would not be visible to the public.”

But what about when recording is not secret?

Knowledge about the filming but not consenting to it still constitutes the knowledge necessarily to legally continue the practice, so the law still violates a woman's right, wrote Gerberg.

She and others at Harvard have created #DemandRespectMA, a campaign demanding that a woman's silence is not an indication of consent. On Wednesday, the group wore skirts and rallied in Harvard's Forum on that platform. According to the campaign, the need to override the Supreme Court's ruling, "is indicative of laws and policies nationwide that take a woman's silence as consent."

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