In the disco, in the schoolyard or in the pedestrian zone: If somebody secretly films or photographs the genital area under a dress or skirt, this attack is called upskirting. Yet such an act is not punishable in Germany. But Federal Minister of Justice Christine Lambrecht (SPD) wants to change that. In order to curb the "humiliating and degrading behavior" of the perpetrators, the politician plans a reform of the criminal code.

Upskirting laws exist in many countries, such as Australia or Japan. Since April, unauthorized photographing under clothing is also punishable in the UK, where it is punishable by imprisonment of up to two years. The 27-year-old activist Gina Martin made a decisive contribution to this. At a music festival in London, a stranger had photographed under her skirt. Because there was no way to report him, she launched a petition prohibiting illicit images - with success. The case also inspired two young women from Germany: Hanna Seidel and Ida Marie Sassenberg launched an online petition in this country a few months ago with the aim of making upskirting a criminal offense. More than 90,000 people signed. On 20 September, the Federal Council will now discuss an amendment to the Penal Code.

The crime expert Esther Papp, who advises victims of sexual offenses at the Munich police, welcomes the initiative. In an interview, she explains why a criminal offense will not deter most perpetrators.

ZEIT ONLINE: Mrs. Papp, you work as a police chief in the police in Munich and advise women who have become victims of sexual assault. Will it make your job easier if upskirting is a criminal offense?

Esther Papp: Yes, because on the one hand, this will have a deterrent effect on some perpetrators and, on the other, it will raise public awareness that such secret shots are not okay. I hope that then more people who observe such an act, will intervene. And that in the future more affected persons will also display these acts.

ZEIT ONLINE: How widespread is the phenomenon?

Papp: We assume that the number of unreported cases should be high, but we do not have valid statistics. On average, we record two cases per month for the metropolitan area of ​​Munich. Nationwide numbers do not exist.


Papp: Many women do not report the attack, so we do not hear about it. That's because the act happens very quickly and the perpetrators mostly escape. Often there is no chance to arrest the culprit. Many believe it would be unprofitable to report the incident. Sometimes the environment also calms down that no one was harmed - often the women were not touched. Sometimes the victims do not realize that they have been secretly photographed in the genital area. Then there is the fact that secret recordings under the rock are so far not a criminal offense. Although the offense can be considered an insult today, it turns up in the police statistics as an insult and not as a sex offending offense.

ZEIT ONLINE: Who are the victims?

Papp: Women - regardless of age or attractiveness. One can not say that only young women or especially attractive women would be affected. We assume that in principle every woman can be affected. Above all, the perpetrators need a favorable moment. They are really on the hunt for the latest trophy. Often such shots are made, for example, in the shopping center or the subway station on the escalator, on stairs or by glass elevators. But even in the crowd, such as at festivals such as the Oktoberfest or at concerts, it comes to these attacks.

ZEIT ONLINE: Who are the perpetrators and what is their motivation?

Papp: The perpetrators are often middle-aged men. They are looking for a picture of the buttocks or vagina. Some are like hunters, the photos are like trophies for them. To exercise one's powers is for some a motivation, but much stronger is a sexual one. Because the photos are trophies for them, the pictures usually remain with the perpetrators. Often we find thousands of photos, often well archived - thousands of popos as trophies. The men use the pictures for their own sexual stimulation. Ultimately, one can regard the phenomenon as a kind of tension.