Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has welcomed the government's move to make stalking a crime.
Cooper said the move should help the criminal justice system crack down on the offence.
She said: "We campaigned hard for this new law against stalking and I am glad that the government accepted our reforms and listened to the victims who have been so determined and brave in speaking out after enduring terrible distress and abuse.
"Victims deserve swift justice and protection from the law - hopefully stalking becoming a criminal offence in its own right will help courts and the criminal justice system focus more quickly and effectively on stopping this crime."
Crime prevention minister Jeremy Browne says the introduction of new legislation making stalking a criminal offence will stop the issue being "brushed under the carpet".
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said:
It is the sort of offence that people can sometimes brush under the carpet, not be aware of, it has been trivialised sometimes, I think, in the past as something which is just people, mainly women, being a bit bothered but nothing to worry about too much.
This is a very serious problem which affects thousands of thousands of mainly women, not exclusively women, but mainly women, right across the country.
Victims and Equalities Minister Helen Grant said creating new stalking offences will ensure "victims of this heinous crime are better protected and will bring more offenders to justice".
Ms Grant said:
The Government's ambition is nothing less than ending all forms of violence against women and girls.
But we must also ensure that if people's lives are affected by crime, the right kind of help or support is available.
For the first time we have made sure nearly £40 million of Central Government funding is in place for organisations that do so much to help victims, often with so little.
New laws designed to give extra protection to victims of stalking have come into force.
The Government is also providing new support aimed at reducing domestic and sexual violence and female genital mutilation (FGM).
Two specific criminal offences of stalking have come into force in England and Wales for the first time.
This is part of a package of new funds and measures to crack down on abuse leading into the 16 days of action that follow yesterday's UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
– Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne
Stalking is an appalling crime that destroys lives. The impact on victims can be devastating and we are doing all we can to make sure they have the protection they need and do not have to live in fear.
These new offences send a clear message to offenders that stalking is a serious crime and they will be brought to justice for making others' lives a misery.
A victim of stalking has created a mobile phone application that alerts family and friends if someone is in danger.
The innovation comes as the Government has introduced two new criminal offences today, stalking and stalking involving a fear of violence.
Stalking has been made a specific criminal offence in England and Wales in a move to improve the safety of victims.
Under the new Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, the Government has introduced two offences, stalking and stalking involving a fear of violence.
Previously, the Protection of Harassment Act 1997 did not specifically name stalking as an offence, instead citing two criminal offences of harassment.
An inquiry into stalking earlier this year by Parliament found that around 120,000 people are victims of stalking every year.
Happy International Women’s day. My advice to young women: educate yourselves, work hard, be brave, and help each other.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “We have been campaigning for a new law on stalking for some time so it is welcome that the Government has accepted that changes are needed.
"However I am worried their plans do not go far enough, and are not strong enough. Their proposals risk being half-hearted and over-complicated, so victims won't get the protection they need."