I rise to speak to amendment 35 in the absence of my hon. Friend Stella Creasy, who could not be here to contribute to this debate in person as her childcare needs mean that she has a proxy vote. I would like to express my appreciation to her for her work in tabling amendment 35.
Amendment 35 goes to the heart of so many cases of domestic abuse in that it makes the link between domestic abuse and misogyny. Violence against women and girls does not occur in a vacuum. Hostility towards women and girls generates a culture in which violence and abuse is tolerated and excused. Changing that means challenging not only individual acts of abuse but the very source that enables them. The gathering of evidence about the extent, nature and prevalence of hostility towards women and girls, and how that interplays with the experience of domestic abuse, is crucial to recognising these connections.
The amendment proposes to mandate police forces around the country to record misogyny as a hate crime where they are not ordinarily doing so. The mandatory collecting of data by police forces would help to assess how misogyny influences the experience of domestic abuse. Once we start to record the experiences of women victims by acknowledging, naming and recording the problem of male violence, male entitlement and gender bias together with women’s reported experiences, we not only start to track perpetrators but can seek to add to our understanding of the nature of violence against women in order to work on how to end it. As my hon. Friend Rosie Duffield said, for many abusers the idea of a strong, independent, successful woman is just that—an idea—but
“they do not like the reality”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 664, c. 1273.]
Misogyny in the context of domestic abuse can present itself in an abuser characterising women other than his partner with sexist stereotypes and admonishing his partner to be different. An abuser may want his partner to dress and groom attractively or even modestly but then label her for doing so. Despite evidence from a number of police forces around the country about the benefits of adopting such an approach, the Government have not yet commented on whether all police forces should do so. I would welcome the Minister’s views on that.
The Law Commission is about to launch a consultation on how to include misogyny in hate crime legislation. It is right to wait for the outcome of that work, but that should not prevent the Government from gathering data that would influence the prosecution of such a crime or recognise its place in understanding violence against women. I would welcome the Minister’s views on the Government’s understanding of the role of misogyny in causing violence against women and their assessment of the impact the policy has had to date in police forces where it has been enacted, such as in Nottingham. The amendment will no doubt allow women to name their experiences and let them know they will be believed when doing so.