Misogyny could start being considered a hate crime, as authorities have announced a wide-raging review of the current legislation on this topic. If you did not already know, hate crimes are acts of violence or hostility directed at people because of who they are, and they are penalised under British law. In 2017-2018, there were 94,098 hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales, which supposed an increase of 17% compared with the previous year, continuing with the upward trend since 2012. Right now, hate crimes include those motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity. However, this could start to change once the review initiated by the authorities is concluded.
It all started when the Labour MP Stella Creasy put forward an amendment to the upskirting bill, debated last September in Parliament, in order to add misogyny as an aggravating factor in England and Wales. This means that courts would have been able to consider misogyny as a motivator, and police forces would have started to record these offences. This was seen by the MP and many supporters as a first step to start considering misogyny as a hate crime. In fact, previous research, based on a two-year testing system by Nottinghamshire Police, which became the first force in the UK to record public harassment of women, revealed that there existed an overwhelming public support for the policy.
However, the MP agreed to withdraw her amendment when the government announced a comprehensive and fully funded review, with a much wider scope, of hate crime legislation. This review will consider whether to include misogyny as a hate crime. The campaigners received this news as an amazing victory for women and against sexist attitudes. However, the review will not only consider introducing prejudice against women as a motivating factor for hate crimes, as many other categories are also being analysed. Hatred offences towards goths and elderly people could also start being penalised under hate crime law. But, what is interesting (or controversial), is that misandry, that is, prejudice against men, could also start being included in such legislation. Situating misandry as a category of hate crime, together with victims from marginalised groups, has caused a lot of controversy, but this is a topic which demands a blog post of its own to be discussed in further detail.
Harassment of women and girls in public spaces is an endemic practice, proved by researchers from Nottingham and Nottingham Trent universities, who found that 93.7% of the women they interviewed had either experienced or witnessed it. Moreover, according to the ONS, more than 443,000 women in England and Wales experienced at least one sexual assault in the year to March 2017, and around 144,000 had experienced rape or an attempted rape assault.
These numbers are terrifying and prove the need to include misogyny under the hate crime legislation. Women deserve the freedom to be able to walk in the street without being catcalled, insulted or assaulted by men just for being women. Women deserve a world free of sexist violence, a world where we do not need to be brave when walking home alone at night, but where we can feel free.
At JAN Trust, we work to make this world possible, standing together and campaigning against misogyny and hate crime. We have been working for almost thirty years to raise awareness and prevent hate crime, especially against refugee, asylum-seeking and Muslim women. We also offer classes and workshops that aim to create a safe environment where women can become empowered and integrated members of society.
If you want to know more about what we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.