“Upskirting”: Protecting oneself from such obscenity

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Sara Gardner, GCSE Student, Leamington Spa, UK

Teachers have been telling pupils (specifically girls) to wear shorts under their skirts to protect themselves from “upskirting”. But what is upskirting? 

Upskirting is the activity of taking a photograph or video from a position that allows someone to look up inside a woman’s dress or skirt, without the woman’s permission. 

“Upskirting” became illegal in the UK in April 2019, but it is not illegal in many other countries. Nevertheless, cases in British primary and secondary schools continue to occur. This is why some schools were spurred to enforce a rule asking girls to wear modesty shorts underneath their skirt. However, parents and students have debated against this, believing modesty shorts are “victim shaming”.

When it comes to modesty in Islam, Allah initially addresses men in the Holy Quran to first refrain themselves, from all that which may incite their emotions. Allah commands men to lower their gaze: “Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes […] That is purer for them”. (Surah al-Nur, Ch.24: V.31)

Then Islam guides women to “guard their private parts, and that they disclose not their beauty except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head-coverings over their bosoms”. Therefore, both men and women have been given commands to honour modesty.

The teaching of Islam concerning the veil is probably the most confusing and difficult to accept for the Western society. This is because of the widespread and erroneous notion that observing purdah is a heavy burden imposed on Muslim women. 

In fact, the very opposite is true. Purdah is not a subjugation, but it protects women and provides women with freedom from many social ills.

Purdah guards the moral condition of society. The verses make clear that both men and women should conduct themselves with modesty and propriety at all times, especially when in each other’s presence. Islamic teachings are deeply embedded in the philosophy that prevention is better than cure. 

It is deeply concerning that incidents of upskirting are occurring amongst even young children, leading to the question of how we can protect our young girls. 

During a class, a girl asked Huzooraa regarding the age at which girls should start wearing a headscarf. Huzooraa said: 

“When you reach the age of five, you should not go out without wearing leggings under your frock. Your legs should be covered so that you develop the feeling that gradually your dress must become modest”. 

Huzooraa continued to outline that when a girl turns six or seven, she should become even more careful with regard to leggings and then at the age of 10, she should try to develop the habit of wearing some sort of scarf and then at age 11, wear the scarf properly. (Gulshan-e-Waqf-e-Nau, 12 October 2013, Australia)

Thus, the humiliation, distress and alarm of upskirting can be prevented. The concept of modesty is a beautiful teaching that protects a woman, for it is her armour. Common sense tells us we wouldn’t leave a precious gold bracelet lying unattended in the street, but would keep it safe. We cannot account for the behaviour of other male students, but we can always try to protect ourselves. This is not victim shaming at all, but is good sense. We should be proud that we have such beautiful teachings of Islam to guide and protect us, alhamdulillah.

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