Council backs making misogyny a hate crime

Women’s march in Berlin. Pic: Raquel García

Proposals to make misogyny a hate crime have been backed by Lewisham Council.

The proposal by the Law Commission comes after a Citizens UK report showed that 33.5% of hate crimes were motivated by gender and women were three times more likely to experience sexual violence than men. 

Derogatory comments about race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and trans identity are illegal under the current hate crime legislation. As the report pointed out, women can fall under any of these identities.“The intersectional nature of discrimination means that women with additional protected characteristics, such as those who are BAME, disabled or LGBT+, are even more likely to experience harassment, discrimination and abuse.”

Councillor Susan Wise said the classification of misogyny as a hate crime has been “a long time coming perhaps because it’s an issue we find difficult to comprehend and to accept”. Having experienced misogyny in her political life, Wise highlighted the 18 female MPs including Nicky Morgan, Louise Ellman, Amber Rudd and Heidi Allen who stepped down from the 2019 election after enduring abuse.

For her, a democracy must have “equal numbers of capable men and women to be elected as both national and local government and for them to remain safe there, from misogyny as they represent their constituents.”

The council is now engaged in making a submission to the Law Commission’s Consultation to strengthen hate crime legislation and make misogyny a hate crime. They will call on the Metropolitan Police to record harassment of women as a hate crime and pressure the Government to provide funding for police forces to efficiently tackle violence against women.

Councillor Sophie Davis said in a statement on Labour’s website the motion would allow courts to recognise that crimes can be motivated by gender and impose harsher sentences. “It would also influence how police forces approach these crimes, encouraging victims to come forward and ensuring that we have better data in future,” she added.

The fight to make misogyny a hate crime

Spurred on by the work of charities such as Citizens UK, Hope not Hate, Southall Black Sisters and the Fawcett Society, the Nottinghamshire Police Force was the first to record misogyny as a hate crime. Researchers from local universities conducted a report that found 174 women reported a wide range of hate crimes between April 2016 and March 2018. The majority of the people the force surveyed said they want to see this scheme continue.

Spearheaded by Labour MP Stella Creasy, the campaign to make misogyny a hate crime became a key point of the Labour’s 2019 manifesto. In September 2019, the Law Commission proposed to reform hate crime laws, by adding “sex or gender” to the protected characteristics.

Last November, Baroness Donaghy of Labour told at House of Lords meeting: “A woman has been murdered every three days for the last 10 years, … yet there is no co-ordination among the authorities to build an accurate pattern of abuse. Making misogyny a hate crime will go some way to addressing this scandal in our society.”

The Law Commission will submit a final report to parliament in 2021 for its consideration.

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