A UK campaign to criminalize upskirting, the practice of filming up people’s clothing to see their genitals or underwear, looks set to succeed after the government announced its support for the new law Friday.
While Scotland has had its own law on upskirting for almost a decade, there is no specific legislation against the intrusive act in England and Wales, according to the UK’s Press Association.
Victims can seek convictions for public disorder or indecency but are not always successful, and campaigners have long been calling for a specific law that recognizes the behavior as a sexual offense, PA reported.
Under the new legislation, which will have its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday, perpetrators would face up to two years in jail and the most serious offenders would be named on the sex offenders register, PA said.
There are a number of hurdles remaining before the bill is signed into law, but with the government’s backing, the chances of success are high.
“This behaviour is a hideous invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed,” said Justice Minister Lucy Frazer in the statement announcing the government’s backing.
“By making ‘upskirting’ a specific offence, we are sending a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated, and that perpetrators will be properly punished.”
Campaigners responded to the news with cautious optimism.
Katie Ghose, chief executive of charity Women’s Aid, told PA: “We welcome the government taking decisive action to make upskirting a criminal offense. This form of abuse is painful and humiliating for victims and often has a devastating impact on all aspects of their lives.”
“We hope that this new criminal offense will be another step forward in challenging the prevailing sexist attitudes and behaviors in our society that underpin violence against women and girls.”
The UK is not the only country to see a concerted campaign on upskirting. Several US and Australian states have legislated against the behavior and it is illegal in New Zealand and India.
On June 9, thousands of women in Seoul, South Korea, took to the streets to protest against upskirting and the related problem of “spycam porn,” when the images or footage captured is circulated without the subject’s consent.
It was one of the biggest women’s rallies in South Korean history.