Dominic Raab has dismissed demands to make misogyny a hate crime in an interview where he claimed it was wrong “whether it is a man against a woman or a woman against a man”.
Calls have been mounting for misogyny – defined as hatred or contempt for women – to be made a specific offence amid scrutiny over the handling of violence against women.
The Justice Secretary, who has previously said he isn’t a feminist, was mocked when he mistakenly said it was wrong whether it was against a man or a woman.
In a disastrous BBC Breakfast interview from the Tory party conference, Mr Raab had to be told the definition of misogyny by presenter Sally Nugent.
It comes after Boris Johnson risked angering campaigners demanding change in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder when he refused to back calls to make misogyny a specific offence.
Mr Raab said the Government was “laser-like focused on” tackling higher level offences like intimidation and violence.
Asked whether misogyny should be made a hate crime, he said: “I think we have often seen in the criminal justice system over decades, people trying to legislate away what is an enforcement problem.
“I think insults and misogyny is of course absolutely wrong, whether it is a man against a woman or a woman against a man.”
At the end of the interview, the interviewer asked him if he wanted to clarify his remarks.
“What I meant was, if we are talking about things below the level of public order offences of harassment, intimidation, which are rightly criminalised – if we are talking about, effectively, insults with a sexist basis, I don’t think that criminalising those sorts of things will deal with the problem that we have got at the heart of the Sarah Everard case,” he said.
Those issues included the actions of the police but also the broader question of women fearing their cases would not go to court and end with a conviction, he said.
“Therefore, just criminalising insulting language – even if it’s misogynistic – does not deal with the intimidation, the violence and the much higher level of offence and damage and harm that we really ought to be laser-like focused in on.”
The interviewer then read him the dictionary definition as “hatred against/ directed towards women”.
Mr Raab replied: “Any of that, so inciting hatred, intimidation, harassment are already criminal offences. So I would say don’t create other lower level offences.
“What you want to do is focus on how you enforce the offence that we’ve got in law which protect women from precisely that kind of intimidation and harassment that I think your focusing on.”
Labour’s Sarah Champion tweeted: “Err, Dom: Misogyny -hatred of, aversion to, or prejudice against women.”
And MP Chris Bryant said: “I think he’s missed the point. Blasted misanthrope!”