This must be a mistake! How else do you explain the latest ruling from the state's highest court that tells us it is not illegal to take photographs up women's skirts. Who knew? Next time a stranger whips out his camera and asks to take a picture, I'll be sure to cross my legs.
I wish I could make this up. But I can't. "Upskirting" is what the practice is called. The very fact that there's a name for the practice of secretly photographing up a woman's dress is upsetting.
Several years ago, an Andover man was charged with taking cellphone photos up the skirts of women who were riding on the Green Line. He was arrested after women complained for months that a man was taking unwanted photos of them as they rode the MBTA. Police set up a sting operation and netted Michael Robertson.
His lawyer fought to have the charges dismissed and his case landed in Boston Municipal Court where a judge ruled in favor of criminally charging Robertson under the state's Peeping Tom voyeurism laws.
But Robertson took his appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court -- which agreed with him this week. The justices ruled the Peeping Tom laws couldn't be applied because the women were not nude or partially undressed.
Were his "photo subjects" nude? No. Although what some women wear on the subway these days leaves little to the imagination. But even if a woman is wearing next to nothing, why is it OK to take photos of her "undies" (if she's wearing them) underneath her clothing? And I'd argue that thongs and various fashion undergarments don't even cover a female's anatomy. So he's taking pictures of far more than underwear!
The upper court's unanimous ruling: "A female passenger on the MBTA trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering (private) parts of her body is not a person who is 'partially nude,' no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing."
Massachusetts law "does not apply to photographing (or videotaping or electronically surveilling) persons who are fully clothed and, in particular, does not reach the type of upskirting that the defendant is charged with attempting to accomplish on the MBTA."
My question: Why don't passengers have a reasonable expectation of privacy in NOT having unwanted pictures taken? I understand that today's technology allows for photographs to be taken in any place at any time. But don't we have certain rights to privacy, especially when it comes to privacy beneath our clothing?
Fortunately, the state Legislature took swift action and changed the law. If it hadn't, it would have been free rein for Peeping Toms on the T, with transit police not making any arrests for upskirting.
Gail Huff is a reporter with WGBH-TV. Follow her on Twitter @reportergail or contact her at email@example.com.