We know that misogyny sits behind much harassment and intimidating behaviour that unfortunately, many women experience as a reality every day in our communities. It fuels behaviour that far too often escalates into serious offences and harm to women and girls.
An amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill tabled by Baroness Newlove aims to tackle this. It seeks to update the existing law on hate crime by requiring police forces to record data on crimes motivated by hostility towards the victim’s sex or gender. It also requires the court to take into account this hostility as an aggravating factor when deciding the seriousness of cases which are not sexual or domestic offences.
I am really pleased that Baroness Newlove’s amendment was successfully voted for in the House of Lords; I fully support action on misogyny, and I wholeheartedly support this amendment.
The campaign to recognise misogyny as an aggravating factor in the same way that we recognise hostility against a person due to disability, race or other characteristics has been running for years. I believe that it is past time to close this gap in our law and to state clearly that we do not accept the status quo and that things must change. There is much support for this reform and the Government should take this opportunity to rectify the law on this.
There was a previous attempt to introduce this reform, as an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill. However, this amendment was withdrawn after the Government announced that, on an experimental basis, it will ask police forces to identify and record any crimes of violence against the person, including stalking and harassment, as well as sexual offences, where the victim perceives it to have been motivated by hostility based on their sex.
This was a step in the right direction, but we now have the opportunity to complete these reforms. I hope that the Government will recognise this opportunity and support Baroness Newlove’s amendment when it comes to the House of Commons.
Even though we have come a long way, progress towards meaningful change for women is too slow. That is why I would also like to see a toughening of existing sentences for perpetrators of rape and stalking, and the creation of new specific offences for street sexual harassment.
I can assure you that I will continue to advocate and vote for changes to the law which seek to protect women and girls. This includes Baroness Newlove’s amendment on classifying misogyny as a hate crime.