Women should be protected under expanded hate crime laws, according to a new report from the Law Commission.
The independent body that advises government said misogyny should be treated in the same way as other discrimination when it is the motivation for a crime.
Campaigners welcomed the proposal, including Labour MP Stella Creasy, who called it “our moment for change”.
The Home Office said it was “committed to stamping out hate crime”.
Seven police forces in England and Wales class misogyny as a hate crime, but this definition has not been adopted across the board.
When a crime is carried out against someone – such as assault, harassment or criminal damage – because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity, it is considered a hate crime and treated more seriously by the courts.
But campaigners have criticised the complex nature of the existing laws, and called for sex and gender to be added to the list.
The Law Commission has carried out a review into the legislation and is putting several recommendations into a consultation.
It said the “vast majority of evidence” suggested crimes were linked to misogyny.
The commission plans to make its official recommendations to the government in 2021.
The Home Office said it asked the commission to “explore how to make current legislation more effective, and if there should be additional protective characteristics” – and it will “respond to the review in full when it is complete”.
The commissioner for criminal law, Professor Penney Lewis, said: “Hate crime has no place in our society and we have seen the terrible impact that it can have on victims.
“Our proposals will ensure all protected characteristics are treated in the same way, and that women enjoy hate crime protection for the first time.”
Campaign and policy manager at Women’s Aid, Lucy Hadley, welcomed the proposals.
She said: “Sexism and women’s inequality are the root causes of violence against women – including domestic abuse, sexual violence, street harassment including ‘upskirting’, and online forms of crime – and these often intersect with other identities, including race and ethnicity, sexuality and disability.
“Making clear that crimes happen to women ‘because they are women’ could help to send a clear message that women will be believed, protected and supported if they experience sexist violence and abuse.”
Ms Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, has led calls for a change in the law.
She welcomed the findings, saying they would help the criminal justice system “detect and prevent offences including sexual assault, rape and domestic abuse”.
Ms Creasy added: “I now urge every woman who has walked with keys in her hands at night, been abused or attacked online or offline to come forward and be heard in this consultation.
“This is our moment for change – rather than asking women to pick a side of their identity to be protected, it’s time to send a message that women should be equally able to live free from fear of assault or harm targeted at them simply for who they are.”
The Law Commission is also currently consulting on whether ageism, being a member of an alternative subculture (like goths and punks), or homelessness should also be added to the list of hate crime motivations.
It is also wants the “stirring up hatred” offence to be reformed, so it is less difficult to prosecute and gives equal footing to all the groups it affects.
And it is recommending the extension of the offence of racist chanting at a football match to cover chanting based on sexual orientation.