Gina Martin is the type of person we need more of in the world. The campaigner, speaker, writer, and political activist - who is best known for making upskirting a sexual offence in England and Wales - has opened up about how her experience of being upskirted by a male stranger at a festival led to her fight to successfully change the law.
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For our International Women's Day digital issue, Gina has written candidly about her passion for gender equality and how she didn't originally see herself as an activist. "I didn't know what an 'activist' was; I was just doing something I had to do because the system was failing us," she said.
"I believe in gender equality for all of us. I believe a better society is possible," she adds.
Read her inspiring words below...
For me, 8th March isn't an annual day to reflect on the fight for gender equality, because my job requires me to reflect constantly. I'm a writer, campaigner, and gender equality activist, most well-known for making upskirting a sexual offence in England and Wales as well as changing global Instagram policy alongside Nyome Nicholas-Williams.
In 2017 I was upskirted by a man I didn't know at a festival. I did everything we ask survivors of sexual assault to do: stood up for myself, got the evidence, made sure I had witnesses and reported to the police instantly, even handing the phone, photo, and man to officers.
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They told me there wasn't anything they could do, and so I subsequently spent the next two years, alongside my lawyer Ryan Whelan, in Parliament working to introduce a bill to amend the sexual offences act and change the law, which we did in April 2019. Three other countries have followed suit with Northern Ireland planning to introduce similar legislation.
Be the Change by Gina Martin, £9.68, Amazon
I knew when I was collecting thousands of stories from victims of upskirting, that this act was a gateway to other, more serious offences. In fact, a third of the perpetrators charged with my law were charged with other serious crimes like child abuse, sexual assault, and extreme pornography. I always knew this law would hold serious offenders accountable.
I started campaigning when I was twenty-five, and I worked full time throughout. I didn't know what an "activist" was; I was just doing something I had to do because the system was failing us. It wasn't the last time I'd been on the receiving end of sexual harassment or male violence.
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I was raised by progressive Liverpudlian parents who had an equal partnership, and so I feel like I was lucky enough to see feminist principles way before I had the language. I always cared about people's right to safety regardless of their gender, expression or who they love, and I don't think that's radical. I think that's the absolute basics.
I don't believe in choosing who you "give" humanity to based on how different you are from them. I believe in gender equality for all of us. I believe a better society is possible.
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