The House of Lords has voted to make misogyny a hate crime in England and Wales, in a night of several defeats for the government in the upper chamber.
The law change would enable judges to impose stronger penalties if prejudice against women is proved to be the motivation, and would also require the police to record whether crimes were motivated by a hatred of someone’s sex or gender.
In October, Boris Johnson rejected the idea that misogyny should be a hate crime, saying: “If you simply widen the scope of what you ask the police to do, you’ll just increase the problem.”
The justice secretary, Dominic Raab, also dismissed the suggestion while appearing confused about the meaning of misogyny, suggesting it could apply to the abuse of women or men.
The Home Office minister Lady Williams pointed to a report by the Law Commission last year which concluded that making misogyny a hate crime would not prevent hostility towards women, but the amendment passed anyway on Monday night, thanks to support from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, with 242 peers backing it versus 185 voting against.
The vote came during a debate in the House of Lords on the Police Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, in which the government lost 14 divisions, including plans to make people locking themselves on to objects punishable by up to 51 weeks’ imprisonment, suspicion-less stop-and-search and introduction of “serious disruption prevention orders” against protesters.
Peers also voted to block proposals to give police new powers to stop noisy and disruptive protests in England and Wales, with Green peer Jenny Jones calling the plans “oppressive” and “plain nasty”.
Once the Lords have completed their scrutiny of the bill, which needs the approval of both houses to become law, it will return to the House of Commons.
In December, the Law Commission, an independent body that recommends legal changes for England and Wales, decided to reject a proposal to make misogyny a hate crime after it concluded that the move would not solve the “real problem” of hostility or prejudice directed against women because of their sex or gender.
Instead, it recommended that the government consider introducing a specific offence to tackle public sexual harassment, which it claimed would be more effective.
The drive to amend the bill to make misogyny a hate crime was led by the Conservative peer Lady Newlove, a former victims’ commissioner.
Newlove said: “It is perverse that, despite 3 million crimes being committed against women in just three years, our legal and policing systems do not routinely recognise what we all know is blindingly obvious: the deep-rooted hostility towards women that motivates many of these crimes.
“As a society we have rightly taken steps to acknowledge the severity of racist or homophobic crimes, but have not yet acted on crimes driven by hatred of women.
“Too often when it comes to violence against women, society demands the perfect victim before we act,” she stressed, adding that her amendment was an attempt to “flip the script”.
Lady Fox, and independent, argued against the proposal, warning that the collected data would be “almost entirely based on subjective perceptions” of what constituted misogyny.
Labour’s Lord Hain called the government’s plan to curb noisy protests via extended police powers “the biggest threat to the right to dissent and the right to protest in my lifetime”.
Williams defended the government’s plans, telling peers that the police would only use the powers where “necessary” and “appropriate”, before the amendment won by 261 votes to 166.
Adding to a raft of government defeats, peers also supported four other amendments including one aiming to protect Parliament Square as a place to protest, one that would require police officers to tell the truth in public inquiries, and one demanding an inquiry into the prevalence of drink-spiking offences.