Thank you for contacting me about public sexual harassment.

I agree that public sexual harassment is a crime, not a compliment. A new law which makes street harassment a specific criminal offence needs to be introduced. I support proposals on ending public sexual harassment, as well as tackling violence against women and girls more broadly.

On 21 July 2021, the Government published its Violence against Women and Girls Strategy and acknowledged that sexual harassment in public places is all too common. It further found that women and girls do not always report public sexual harassment as they do not think that it is criminal behaviour, or that it will be taken seriously by the police.

As you highlight, the Law Commission published its report on Hate Crime on 7 December 2021 and as part of that it recommended a new specific offence to tackle public sexual harassment. I am wholeheartedly in agreement with this.

I also strongly believe that misogyny should be made a hate crime. Misogyny sits behind much harassment and intimidating behaviour that, unfortunately, many women experience every day. In July 2021, the Opposition tabled amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill relating to hatred based on sex and gender characteristics, and on reducing serious violence against women and girls, including street harassment. However, these did not become part of the Bill before it progressed to the House of Lords.

I am therefore pleased that in the House of Lords on 17 January, an amendment to the Bill was backed to recognise misogyny as an aggravating factor in the same way that we recognise hostility against a person due to disability, race or other characteristics. Although the amendment passed with Opposition support, it was opposed by the Government. I hope the Government sees that there is much support for this change and I will follow the Bill’s progress closely when it returns to the House of Lords on 25 January.

I remain concerned that many of the solutions and responses from Government, and in the criminal justice system, have missed the mark. We need to go further and more quickly in terms of making things better for women and girls who report abuse.

Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue.

Black and white image of women holding a sign that says
Black and white image of women holding a sign that says 'Women's rights are human rights'
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