France is to ban upskirting, inspired by Britain’s proposed law against taking photos under womens’ skirts or dresses without their permission, and similar legislation in Canada and Belgium.
A bill on sexual violence and street harassment has been amended to make “filming improper images” a criminal offence punishable by a maximum of two years in prison and a fine of nearly £27,000.
Senators passed the amendments by a large majority after it emerged that upskirting was becoming increasingly common in France, especially on trains and buses.
Many women have complained on social networks of attempts to film under their skirts. Some said they had called police but they took no action against the culprits, many of whom are believed to have posted their footage online.
A victim posted on Twitter: “Urgent please: A guy filmed under my skirt in a shopping centre. We called the police. Can you tell me what I can do?”
Marion, 29, said a man had tried to film her in the Paris Métro. “He was sitting opposite me and I saw him trying to film under my skirt with his mobile phone. I raised my voice and told him to stop… He did… muttering and staying calmly in his seat.”
Half of women in France wear trousers on public transport to avoid harassment, according to a survey. Some say they have taken to wearing shorts under their skirts to defend themselves against upskirting.
Adèle told Le Parisien newspaper that she had grabbed and broken the phone of a man who filmed her on the Métro and a 17-year-old said she had felt violated after being filmed on an escalator in a shopping centre.
Upskirting is already illegal in Belgium but police say few women report it to the police.
Olivier Slosse, a Brussels police spokesman, urged more women to report upskirting or voyeurism. “We only get about 20 complaints a year for this kind of voyeurism. It’s important for the victims to come forward because they are the victims of an illegal act, and it’s important for us because these crimes are under-reported and it helps draw our attention to them.”