MPs have voted against making misogyny a hate crime as ministers were accused of “turning a blind eye” to the “hatred” fuelling violence against women.
Only one Conservative MP present – Lucy Allan – voted against scrapping a House of Lords’ amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which sought to make misogyny a hate crime.
MPs voted 314 to 190, a majority of 124, to remove the amendment.
‘Could make prosecuting serious crimes harder’
Policing minister Kit Malthouse said the government understands and shares the “genuine concern” about the safety of women and girls and is “determined to make significant inroads” on the matter.
But he said making misogyny a hate crime “runs the risk of being damaging to the cause of women’s safety” and could have “unintended consequences”.
Mr Malthouse said a Law Commission recommendation found adding sex and gender to hate crime laws “may prove more harmful than helpful” and could be counter-productive.
“The principal reason for this is that it could make it more difficult to prosecute the most serious crimes that harm women and girls, including rape and domestic abuse,” he said.
‘These toxic attitudes are unacceptable’
Following the defeat, Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Wera Hobhouse accused the Conservatives of “turning a blind eye to the hatred that fuels violence against women”.
“We must make clear in law that these toxic attitudes are unacceptable in our society, to help stamp out the abuse women face,” she added.
“No woman should be the victim of these awful crimes. And no girl should grow up in fear of them either.”
Shadow Home Office minister Sarah Jones gave Labour’s backing to the amendment, saying it would “increase public awareness, improve victims’ confidence, crucially, in reporting, and will enhance the way the police respond”.
‘The flinch when you come out of the Tube’
And Labour MP Stella Creasy said police forces had found it helpful to record data on sex or gender being a motivating factor for crimes, including for recognising patterns of behaviour.
She said many women have experienced sexual harassment and abuse in their daily lives.
“The flinch when you come out of a Tube station to make sure there’s nobody behind you, carrying your keys in your hand, worrying about what your daughter is wearing, hoping that your son isn’t one of those people who does it,” she told the Commons.
“The problem for the minister is he says he listens to women, he knows women, he understands this area. But if he understands at all he should listen to the suffragettes who told us it was deeds, not words that matter.
“And all we’ve heard tonight is words.”
She suggested Mr Malthouse should come up with an alternative proposal before the bill returns to the Lords.