The Labour MP Stella Creasy wants to make misogyny a hate crime. Misogyny is defined as hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women.

Tomorrow, the Commons will debate Creasy’s amendment to the “upskirting” bill, which would add misogyny as an aggravating factor.

The MP is said to hope that this will be the first step to making it a hate crime, along with offences motivated by hostility based on race, religion, trans identity, sexual orientation or disability. She claims that the public backs such a move. A two-year pilot scheme by Nottinghamshire police, which recognised public harassment of women as misogynistic hate crime, is said to have received overwhelming support.

Yet laws already exist prohibiting violence against women, discrimination or harassment. So why does misogyny need to be made a crime? “Upskirting,” says Creasy, “is a classic example of a crime in which misogyny is motivating the offence.”

Really? What’s the evidence for that? It seems to be nothing other than the apparently unchallengeable belief that unwanted behaviour towards women is invariably motivated by prejudice against them. This is a false and damaging generalisation. Since the perception of such a hate crime involves someone’s subjective view that she is the victim of male prejudice, it can expand to cover a vast range of behaviour. Such expansion is already on display in the Nottinghamshire scheme. This includes wolf-whistling, groping, indecent exposure, sexually explicit language, unwanted sexual advances and online abuse.

Some of these are, and should be, treated as offences in their own right. Others may be inappropriate, socially maladroit, oafish or evidence of pathological deviancy. But are they invariably motivated by hatred or dislike of all women? Are all of them serious enough to use up already overstretched police resources? And what about all those women who ogle men, address sexually suggestive remarks or insults to them, touch them inappropriately or speak of men in general with disdain?

Should misandry — hatred of, contempt for or prejudice against men — also be made a hate crime? And while we’re in the mood, why not make misanthropy a hate crime, thus criminalising all those with a generally grumpy view of their fellow human beings? Indeed, since hatred is part of the human condition, why not expand the criteria to criminalise most of the population? Under hate crime doctrine, however, bigotry is reserved only for the powerful. Men are deemed to be the patriarchy that runs the show. So by definition men cannot be victims of women.

That’s why Zakia Soman, a women’s rights activist and one of the “experts” who decided in a recent Thomson Reuters poll that America was one of the ten countries perceived as most dangerous for women, explained this dubious ranking on the grounds that “our society is ruled by misogyny and patriarchy”. Feminists used to fight the disempowering perception that “biology is destiny”. When it comes to their view of men, however, biology is guilt.

Far from creating a more decent, civilised society, existing hate crimes have helped promote a climate of intolerance, bullying and social division based on suspicion, recrimination and blame.

Hate crime was first introduced in the US in the Eighties and was problematic from the start. This was because it did not seek to address any deficiency in the laws designed to safeguard people from harm.

It was instead part and parcel of “identity politics” in which groups define themselves as victims. Victimisation is deemed to be proof of an unjust society; in identity politics, virtually everyone outside the supposedly dominant establishment is a victim. Hate crime is a symbol of solidarity with them.

It is said to be more serious than regular crimes because the prejudice involved aggravates the harm done to the victim. Really? How? It doesn’t increase the injury sustained from an assault or the potential threat posed by harassment.

The aggravating factor is surely nothing more than the offence or revulsion felt by the victim at the crime’s presumed hateful motivation. So the extra punishment is instead for values thought to be objectionable.

Hate crimes thus don’t police deeds but thought. They are an attempt to drive out attitudes that the self-appointed cultural police deem to be beyond the pale. Now actual police are being used to enforce them.

Their arbitrary nature will inevitably mean the invidious targeting of certain individuals. The Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson, for example, says boys are the victims of “gender equality” and that men are generally dominant in society because they are better at being in charge.

For that, he is of course labelled a misogynist of the deepest hue. If Creasy has her way, will Peterson be arrested for hate crime if he should return to Britain for one of his wildly successful public appearances?

Making misogyny a crime presupposes that male attitudes to women need to be regulated in and of themselves. It therefore makes men the enemy, not just of women but of decent and civilised values.

That is a hateful calumny. In other words, the real hatred involved in the crime of misogyny doesn’t lie with the male sex. It resides instead in the minds of those whose prejudice against men now risks labelling their chromosomes as accessories to crime.

(c) The Time 2018

By Times Columnist