Is 'upskirting' a crime in Czechia? Prague metro incident raises questions

The Prague police are investigating the case of a man who filmed women up their skirts on the metro escalators.

Kathrin Yaromich

Written by Kathrin Yaromich Published on 28.07.2022 15:58:00 (updated on 28.07.2022) Reading time: 6 minutes

In mid-July, after a Czech influencer posted about an incident in which a man secretly filmed up her skirt on a Prague metro escalator, many others came forward with similar experiences, revealing widespread sexual harassment on the city's public transport.

A number of countries have already criminalized this behavior or are considering taking steps to do so. Where does the Czech Republic stand on the issue?

What is upskirting?

Upskirting is a term used to describe the act of taking a sexually invasive photograph up someone’s skirt without their permission.

It usually occurs in a public place, such as on public transport or in a nightclub, among crowds of people, making it harder to spot the individual taking the photos.

In 2019, British writer Gina Martin popularized the term as she started campaigning to make upskirting a criminal offense after she experienced it herself at a festival and was told by police that nothing could be done because it was not a registered crime.

FEATURED EMPLOYERS

"Growing up as a woman, you get a lot of unwanted attention. A lot of things happen that make you feel uncomfortable. I think this was the last one that I wanted to deal with. I decided if someone was going to make a change, why would it not be me," Martin says in the video.

A year later, upskirting became a criminal offense in England and Wales punishable by up two years in prison in the UK under the Voyeurism Act.

"Upskirting is distressing and a humiliating violation of privacy for victims. We want victims to know and be confident that reports to the police will be taken seriously," states the Gov.UK website

Is 'upskirting' considered a serious offense in the Czech Republic?

While in the UK upskirting is considered a criminal offense, it is only a misdemeanor in the Czech Republic.   

According to Johanna Nejedlová, head of the organization Konsent, which deals with the prevention of sexual violence and harassment in the Czech Republic, upskirting is usually dealt with by the police as a misdemeanor.

"We have discussed it with several lawyers. Under certain conditions, it can be considered a crime, but it depends on how the police judge it. And they usually don't judge it that way," she told Seznam Zprávy.

"It's not a criminal act unless the person does it to small children. If they do it without the victim's knowledge, it is a misdemeanor, taking pictures without consent," explains lawyer Lucie Hrdá to iDnes.cz.

Czech non-profit organization Beat Sexism deals with women's legal issues and documents cases of sexism and gender inequality. According to the organization, street harassment is alive and well, usually intensifying in summer.

At the same time, there is rising awareness about different types of harassment and ways to deal with them. "This also increases the level of self-confidence of women, who are then better prepared for situations, they are no longer afraid to object and speak up, they also support other women and point out, for example, places where something can happen," stated the organization.

Prague's 'serial upskirter'

On a hot Monday afternoon, Aneta Chroustová wanted to enjoy a picnic with her friends. As she stood on the metro escalator at Palackého náměstí, she was filming a video of her basket. Suddenly, she realized that a man who stood behind her was holding his phone under her skirt. 

Aneta started shouting at the man, cursing him and asking him what he was doing. "He stuttered, gesticulated, and was very taken aback," she says.

In the process, she bumped the phone he was holding in his hand and it fell. "He yelled at me that I broke his cell phone for twenty thousand and how dare I do that," Chroustová describes the situation. After that, he quickly left.

Shocked by such behavior, Chroustová, who is an influencer with a large audience, shared what happened to her on Instagram. "I am shaking… I did not know at all how to react." As she was filming on the escalator for her blog, she even managed to capture the moment she confronted the perpetrator and his face.

"I was knocked out of it. I didn't know how to solve it. At first, I called my partner, who calmed me down a bit." At that moment, she said, she didn't even think about reporting the incident to the police, but eventually, she did. "I was afraid that I would be judged, but I was met with acceptance and understanding."

After she shared the video, more women started to respond to her with similar stories. One of the women said the same men filmed her up her skirt two months ago in Chodov. "Since then, I prefer to wear shorts under my dresses," she said to Aneta.

More women told Aneta that the same man harassed them – at Václavské náměstí, Želivského, Dejvice, Staroměstské náměstí. Inspired by her, at least three women also went to the police station to report the incident.

"The funny thing is that the highest fine that man could is 'whole' CZK 20,000," noted Aneta on her Instagram stories. A lawyer replied to her, explaining that if enough women come forward with the allegations, the police could actually open a criminal case. "It is just like an election – every vote counts."

Prague police spokesman Jan Daněk confirmed to Seznam Zprávy that criminal investigators are dealing with the incident. "We are dealing with the case on suspicion of committing an offense against civil coexistence, for which there is a risk of a fine of up to 20,000 crowns," he responded to the question.

He also said that such behavior should be opposed and people should not be afraid to contact the police in such cases. However, many women feel paralyzed and do not know how to react.

How to behave when you encounter or witness harassment?

According to a survey, 77% of women in the Czech Republic have experienced sexual harassment in public and over 60 percent witnessed it with someone else. However, only half of the respondents knew what to do in such a situation. 

A Czech project Stand Up is designed to educate people about the ways to fight harassment in public. It offers 10-minute online training and offers a workshop with experts. 

The project also explains the meaning of harassment because it is not always easily identifiable, it could be obtrusive and refined. But Stand Up puts it simply: whenever there is unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, it is harassment.

Other types of harassment in public include: "accidental" rubbing, "smile at me" requests, ambiguous compliments, groping, invasion of personal space, pushing or rubbing against another's body, sexual assault groping (i.e. touching breasts or buttocks when no one is looking), sexist jokes, and sexual innuendo.

According to self-defense experts, there are three key points in stopping harassment. First, one must give the person a clear command to stop what they are doing. You can use phrases like 'Enough!', 'Leave me alone!', and 'Don't do this to me!'. Often the verbal defense works and the person is shocked that the victim spoke up at all.

Then, describe the situation so those around you know what's going on. While you speak, you should be firm and loud to give the perpetrator a sign – this is not negotiation.

The Stand Up project also reminds us that in situations where you witness harassment happening to someone else, you should resist the "bystander syndrome." To overcome fear and inaction, there are five strategies that one can use to intervene safely.

  • 1.Direct. Don't turn your back on reality, and if the situation is not dangerous, reach out to the perpetrator and ask them to stop the behavior.


  • 2.Distract. Distract the offender. You can "accidentally" drop something and make a fuss or ask them a question about the nearest ATM.


  • 3.Delegate. Another way to deal with the situation is to reach out to people in the area, ideally an authority figure such as the police, security, or a bus driver, for example.


  • 4.Document. If you film the situation, ask the victim what they want to do with the footage. Never show it online.


  • 5.Delay. Even after the incident is over, reach out to the victim and show them that you are on their side and they have nothing to fear.


Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more