London (AFP) – The British government said Monday it will push through a ban on “upskirting” — secretly taking pictures up women’s skirts — after a draft law was blocked last week by an MP since targeted by an underwear protest.
Prime Minister Theresa May personally backed the bill, which would impose prison sentences of up to two years, saying the practice left victims “feeling degraded and distressed”.
The draft ban was debated in the House of Commons on Friday but because it was introduced as a private members’ bill, tabled by an opposition Liberal Democrat lawmaker, a single MP was able to block it by shouting “Object!”.
The intervention by Christopher Chope, a member of May’s Conservative party, was met with cries of “shame” from MPs.
Protesters showed their displeasure over the weekend by hanging underwear across the door to his office in parliament.
May’s spokesman said the government will now adopt the bill, ensuring it is guaranteed time for debate.
The first discussion will be held before parliament’s summer break in July.
“Upskirting is an invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed,” May tweeted after Friday’s defeat.
“I am disappointed the bill didn’t make progress in the Commons today, and I want to see these measures pass through parliament — with government support — soon.”
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.
Under the proposed ban, people convicted of “upskirting” would be placed on the sex offender register.
In a letter to The Times on Monday, Chope said he did not object to the ban itself but the way it was being introduced.
Private members’ bills are a rare opportunity for backbench MPs to introduce a new law but time is limited and few succeed.
Chope said that as the proposed ban had ministerial support it should be debated in the government’s allocated time in the Commons.