London: Upskirting -- the practice of secretly taking pictures up women`s skirts -- is likely to become a specific criminal offence in the UK punishable by up to two years in prison.
Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said on Friday that the government would back a private member`s bill introduced by the Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse outlawing the practice, the Guardian reported.
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 UK`s Press Association.
Under the new legislation, which will have its second reading in the House of Commons, perpetrators would face up to two years in jail and the most serious offenders would be named on the sex offenders register.
One woman, Gina Martin, started an online campaign for the practice to be criminalised after police declined to prosecute a man whom she accused of snapping pictures of her on his phone at a music festival in Hyde Park in London last summer.
She had been wearing underwear and the photograph was therefore not deemed to be illegal.
"This behaviour is a hideous invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed," said Frazer 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."
After the development, Martin said: "Almost a year ago, I started my campaign to make upskirting a sexual offence after I was targeted ? And now, the result of all that hard work is that women and girls who needed this law changed are now being heard by those in power."
Katie Ghose, chief executive of the charity Women`s Aid, "welcomed the government for taking decisive action to make upskirting a criminal offence. This form of abuse is painful and humiliating for victims and often has a devastating impact on all aspects of their lives.