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.
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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 parliament's lower 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.
Dawn Butler, the main opposition Labour party spokeswoman for women and equalities, said: “What possible reason could there be to block a law that supports women and girls?” while protesters expressed discontent over the weekend by hanging underwear across the door to his parliamentary office.
May said the bill would now be brought in on the government's watch, ensuring it is guaranteed time for debate.
"I said at the weekend that the law should change to criminalize upskirting. I am delighted we are introducing a bill in government time in the Commons to do just that this Thursday," she said on Twitter.
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 offenders register.
In a letter to The Times newspaper on Monday, Chope said he did not object to the ban itself but the way it was being introduced. Chope said that as the proposed ban had ministerial support it should be debated in the government's allocated time in the Commons.
Private members' bills are a rare opportunity for backbench MPs to introduce a new law but time is limited and few succeed.
Martin, who originated the campaign so legislators would rule on the issue, welcomed the move on Twitter.