British Ministers have committed to order a review of hate crime law following calls to recognise misogyny as an aggravating factor if it motivated upskirting.
The British Labour party's Stella Creasy urged the Government to fund a Law Commission review into hate crime in new and existing legislation as the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill was debated in the Commons.
The Walthamstow MP said the true extent of hate crimes against women was being "masked" in the criminal justice system because misogyny is not currently recognised as such, but withdrew her amendment to the legislation following the Government's commitment.
“If you are harassed in the workplace as a woman there is protection for it, but not on the streets…”September 5, 2018
Justice Minister Lucy Frazer spoke against the proposals to amend the Bill, saying statutory aggravating factors "don't usually apply to one or two offences" and would make them "inconsistent with all other sexual offences".
She told MPs: "While I recognise the intent behind the amendments, this narrow Bill is not the time to debate misogyny becoming a hate crime.
"However, we as a Government are concerned to ensure our hate crime legislation is up to date and consistent, and I'm pleased to announce today I will be asking the Law Commission to undertake a review of the coverage and approach of hate crime legislation following their earlier recommendation to do so.
"This will include how protective characteristics, including sex and gender characteristics, should be considered by new or existing hate crime law."
Ms Creasy thanked Ms Frazer for "listening", telling the Commons her commitment was "really, really welcome".
The announcement came amid concerns raised by Conservative Maria Miller that the upskirting legislation risks "artificially narrowing" the number of potential convictions.
The chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee warned that the Bill is "very narrowly defined" as she urged ministers to accept her amendment which sought to make all upskirting a crime.
"The Bill explicitly doesn't outlaw upskirting per se, it outlaws it in certain circumstances," Mrs Miller told the Commons.
She pointed to figures from Scotland, where she said only a "handful" of cases had been brought since legislation was introduced eight years ago, despite research suggesting that "one in 10 young people in this country experience upskirting".
"That would mean a far higher rate than just three in Scotland or just under 30 in the UK."
We're making #upskirting a crime.
Upskirting is a hideous invasion of privacy, but not all instances are currently covered by existing criminal law. Making it an offence is another step forward in challenging the sexist attitudes and behaviours in our society. pic.twitter.com/Sg61qfuTS3— Conservatives (@Conservatives) September 5, 2018
The Government has used the Scottish legislation as a base for the Bill, but Mrs Miller said ministers had not reflected changes made to address "significant shortcomings" in the original law.
She told the Commons: "My concern is that in drawing the Bill in this way it is artificially depressing the number of people that will come forward.
"And I think the courts may think that Parliament, in its very specific omission of certain groups of people who are perpetrating this crime, and we know they are already, they are artificially narrowing the number of convictions that might be brought forward and I don't think that is the way Parliament wants this Bill to work.
"And amendment 3 would make sure that it worked far more broadly than that, and actually call to account all of the people who are committing this crime - not just a very small section of them."
Conservative former minister Sir Christopher Chope said he did not believe misogyny should be an aggravating factor.
He said: "The activity itself should be criminalised, it shouldn't be a motive.
"Why do we need to have a motive in respect to an offence that outrages public decency?"
He also called for the law to be "toughened up" to put upskirting offenders motivated by sexual gratification on the sex offenders register.
Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse (Bath) condemned upskirting as a "vile practice" that should be a specific offence.
"The harm caused to the victim is substantial regardless of the intention of the perpetrator," she said.
The Bill later received an unopposed third reading and will undergo further scrutiny in the Lords.
- Press Association & Digital Desk