Upskirting is a “hideous invasion of privacy”, Theresa May said as legislation to make it an offence punishable by up to two years in prison was introduced.
The Prime Minister said she was “proud” her Government was taking action after a previous bid to tackle camera-wielding offenders was scuppered by one of her own MPs.
The Bill will tackle a gap in the law concerning surreptitious photographs taken up women’s skirts without their knowledge or consent.
Mrs May said: “Upskirting is a hideous invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed.
“I am proud that the Government has today introduced a Bill in the Commons which will make this a criminal offence.”
Ministers announced a new law would be introduced after Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope blocked a backbench bill to ban the practice.
Under the terms of the new legislation, the worst offenders would be placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register.
Without a specific law, victims in England and Wales must seek prosecution of upskirting through other legal avenues, such as outraging public decency or harassment. But this law does not cover all cases.
Initially, ministers supported legislation brought forward by Wera Hobhouse MP to create a specific “upskirting” offence.
But that Private Members Bill (PMB) failed to progress in Parliament, following objections raised by Sir Christopher.
He later insisted he supported the Bill’s purpose of outlawing the practice of taking photographs up someone’s clothing without consent, but was acting on a long-held principle that has seen him routinely oppose backbench bills.
Gina Martin, an upskirting victim whose petition to criminalise the act won her a legion of celebrity supporters and political backing, welcomed the Government adoption of the Bill, saying she was “over the moon”.
Justice minister Lucy Frazer said: “We will ensure this Bill becomes law as soon as possible to protect more victims and properly punish offenders.”