By submitting your own stories of harassment, assault or abuse, you could help shape future government policy on misogynistic hate crimes.
The campaign to get misogyny recognised as a hate crime has been a long one. Back in 2016, Nottinghamshire Police started recording data on crimes that were motivated by prejudice against or hatred of women. Two years later, MP Stella Creasy put forward an amendment to anti-upskirting legislation that would have made misogyny a national hate crime, but withdrew it after the government promised the issue would be formally reviewed.
Now, women in England and Wales are being asked to share their experiences of gender-based harassment, assault and abuse. The Law Commission, an independent body that recommends reforms to laws in England and Wales, has opened a public consultation on making misogyny a hate crime – and as part of this consultation, women who have been victims of crimes they believe were motivated by misogyny are invited to submit their stories.
Ultimately, these stories could inform the government’s decision on whether to treat misogyny as a motivating factor in hate crimes.
“Misogyny drives crimes against women – recognising that within our criminal justice system will help us detect and prevent offences including sexual assault, rape and domestic abuse,” said Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow in east London.
She urged “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” as part of the consultation.
Recognising misogyny as a hate crime would not make it illegal to hold or display misogynistic beliefs. Neither would it criminalise any actions that are currently within the law (so no, Piers Morgan, men aren’t going to start getting arrested for wolf whistling).
Instead, it would allow prosecutors to ask for harsher sentences for people found guilty of crimes motivated by a hatred of women. This already happens in court cases where a person is convicted of a crime driven by hostility towards disabled people, transgender people, a certain race, religion or sexual orientation – all of which are protected characteristics under current hate crime legislation.
Treating misogyny as a hate crime will also influence how police forces monitor crimes against women, allowing them to better support victims and identify misogynistic hate crime ‘hotspots’. Seven UK police forces are already logging data on misogynistic hate crimes, and none have reported a surge in reports of wolf-whistling. Instead, they have recorded crimes such as stalking, groping, kidnapping, sexual harassment and assault. Forces taking this approach have seen “proven results in increasing confidence in the police and tackling violence against women”, Creasy said.
Since the Law Commission launched its review into hate crime legislation in England and Wales in 2018, it has come to the conclusion that sex or gender should be made a protected characteristic in hate crime laws – a proposal that has the backing of groups including Women’s Aid, Southall Black Sisters, the Fawcett Society, Refuge, Hope Not Hate, Tell Mama and Citizens UK. However, the body wants to hear from those who have experienced crimes motivated by misogyny before it submits its final recommendations to the government.
After analysing all the responses, the Law Commission will publish its recommendations for reform – at which point it will be up to the government to decide whether to change the law around hate crime.
“Hate crime has no place in our society and we have seen the terrible impact that it can have on victims,” said Professor Penney Lewis, the Law Commission’s criminal law commissioner.
“Our proposals will ensure all protected characteristics are treated in the same way, and that women enjoy hate crime protection for the first time.”
The public consultation on making misogyny a hate crime will be open until 24 December 2020. If you have an experience of gender-based crime that you would like to share, email email@example.com or visit consult.justice.gov.uk/law-commission/hate-crime/
For useful tips on how to respond to street harassment, visit ihollaback.org. If you have been a victim of sexual assault or another gender-based crime, you can find advice and support at endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk