September 23: Misogyny should be made a hate crime in England and Wales, according to the independent body that recommends legal changes, as part of an overhaul of legislation.

The Law Commission is proposing sex or gender should be made a protected characteristic in hate crime laws, primarily to protect women, in a consultation launched on Wednesday, The Guardian reported.

Race, religion, trans identity, sexual orientation and disability are the so-called protected characteristics covered by current hate crime legislation.

Existing criminal offences, such as assault, harassment or criminal damage, where the victim is targeted over hostility towards one or more protected characteristics constitutes a hate crime and is considered more serious as a result.

Following a review of hate crime laws, the Law Commission said the majority of evidence it had seen related to misogyny but it would consult on whether “sex or gender” as a protected characteristic should cover women and men or women only.

Prof Penney Lewis, the criminal law commissioner, said: “Hate crime has no place in our society and we have seen the terrible impact that it can have on victims.

“Our proposals will ensure all protected characteristics are treated in the same way, and that women enjoy hate crime protection for the first time.”

There have been growing calls for misogyny to be treated as a hate crime, and for street harassment of women to be recognised as a specific offence.

Despite being initially trivialised in the media as “arrests for wolf-whistling”, comprehensive analysis of a pilot scheme in Nottinghamshire to treat public harassment of women as a gender hate crime found that the vast majority of people interviewed wanted the policy to continue.

The Labour MP Stella Creasy, who campaigned for the review of hate crime laws, said: “Misogyny drives crimes against women – recognising that within our criminal justice system will help us detect and prevent offences including sexual assault, rape and domestic abuse.

I now urge every woman who has walked with keys in her hands at night, been abused or attacked online or offline to come forward and be heard in this consultation.”

Further proposals to simplify hate crime laws are put forward by the Law Commission in its consultation paper. These include extending the protections of aggravated offences and stirring up hatred offences to cover all current protected characteristics, but also any characteristics added in the future including sex/gender.

The commission is proposing changing the offences of “stirring up hatred” to focus on deliberate incitement of hatred, providing greater protection for freedom of speech where no intent to incite hatred can be proven.

And it will propose expanding the offence of racist chanting at football matches to cover homophobic chanting and other forms of abusive behaviour such as gestures and throwing missiles at players.

There have been calls for hate crime laws to be expanded to include new protected characteristics to tackle ageism, and hostility towards other groups such as homeless people, sex workers, people who hold non-religious philosophical beliefs such as humanists and alternative subculture, such as goths or punks.

The consultation is open until 24 December. The Law Commission has asked to hear from those who have experienced various forms of hate crime, based on all types of characteristics, as well as experts in the area. Final recommendations to the government will be made next year.

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