LONDON: Britain plans to ban "upskirting" -- secretly taking pictures up women's skirts -- under a new law being debated in parliament on Friday that would impose prison sentences of up to two years.
"This behaviour is a hideous invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed," junior justice minister Lucy Frazer said, giving the government's backing to the draft law put forward by opposition lawmaker Wera Hobhouse.
People convicted of "upskirting" would be placed on the sex offender register once the law is approved by parliament.
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Some instances of "upskirting" are currently prosecuted under existing public decency and voyeurism laws, but campaigners said not all instances were covered by existing criminal law.
Campaigner Gina Martin started an online petition after police declined to prosecute a man she accused of taking a picture of her on his phone at a music festival as she had been wearing underwear and the photo was therefore not considered illegal.
"This is obviously great news," Martin said on Friday.
"Now -- hopefully -- we can get access to justice for all victims because the politicians listened," she said.
Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women's Aid, said: "We welcome the government taking decisive action to make upskirting a criminal offence.
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"This form of abuse is painful and humiliating for victims and often has a devastating impact on all aspects of their lives."
Lisa Hallgarten, head of policy for Brook, a sexual health and wellbeing charity for young people, also welcomed the recognition of upskirting as a criminal offence.
But she said that "the law alone is not enough".
"Schools have a critical role in challenging harmful behaviours and practices by dealing with any issues promptly," she said.
"In order to keep children and young people safe from harm we must teach them at the earliest opportunity to respect each other's privacy, to know their rights and to understand issues around consent, coercion and unwanted, unsafe touch."
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