Around 70 percent of flight attendants in Japan have reported that photos had been or likely had been taken of them surreptitiously, an aviation trade union said Thursday, calling for tougher penalties against the act.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents said their pictures had been secretly taken, while 33 percent said they were not sure but "believe" it has happened, with the combined result rising 9 percentage points from the previous survey in 2019, according to the Japan Federation of Aviation Industry Unions.

While most cabin crew reported face and full body pictures had been taken, others replied that they were "upskirted" or had their chest or behind photographed.

Twenty-nine percent said they had not been secretly photographed.

Regarding how the issue was dealt with, 57 percent said they did nothing. A smaller percentage gave the offender a verbal warning or asked for the picture to be deleted, the survey found.

Some flight attendants said they refrained from taking action because it "might offend the passenger" or that they were "afraid" to bring attention to their vulnerable position in relation to customers.

"It is a very serious issue," Akira Naito, chairman of the union association, said during a press conference. "Tougher penalties will deter" people from taking illicit photographs, he said.

The government is considering making upskirting and secretly taking pictures of genitals crimes punishable under the Penal Code.

The online survey, conducted between November and December last year, received responses from 1,573 flight attendants who belong to member unions.

Meanwhile, over half of the respondents said they were subjected to allegedly dangerous conduct. In a multiple choice question, 66 percent answered they faced "persistent complaints or reprimands" from passengers, while 54 percent had encountered people "deliberately" not wearing a mask despite antivirus rules.

Related coverage:

ANA to offer flight attendants 2-day workweek after COVID