Their decision could have a drastic impact on how police treat the misogynistic harassment and abuse of women.
In 2016, Nottinghamshire Police took the unprecedented step of beginning to treat misogynistic incidents as hate crimes against women. Over the course of a two-year pilot scheme, the police force recorded the public harassment of women – including groping, wolf whistling, using explicit language or upskirting – and serious offences such as assault as a misogyny hate crime.
Since then, police forces in North Yorkshire, Northamptonshire and Avon and Somerset have introduced similar schemes to tackle misogyny. And in July, research revealed that the vast majority of Nottinghamshire residents wanted the pilot scheme to continue in their county.
Now, MPs are set to vote on whether to make misogyny a hate crime in England and Wales. Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, has put forward an amendment to the upskirting bill, which is expected to be debated in the Commons on Wednesday (5 September).
This amendment would make misogyny an ‘aggravating factor’, meaning that police forces would be required to record it and courts would be allowed to consider it when sentencing an offender.
“Upskirting is a classic example of a crime in which misogyny is motivating the offence,” Creasy, the MP for Walthamstow in London, told The Guardian.
“We protect women in the workplace from discrimination on grounds of their sex, but not in the courtroom – with upskirting, street harassment, sexually based violence and abuse a part of life for so many it’s time to learn from where misogyny has been treated as a form of hate crime and end this gap.”
The upskirting bill is expected to pass when it is debated in the Commons on Wednesday, after it was initially blocked by Tory MP Christopher Chope. Creasy’s amendment to the bill follows increased pressure from campaign groups to make misogyny a hate crime across the UK.
In July, the Fawcett Society and Citizens UK wrote an open letter to the National Police Chiefs’ Council urging them to recognise the public harassment of women as a gender hate crime.
“Misogyny is so commonplace in our society that we don’t even recognise it,” Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society’s chief executive, told stylist.co.uk.
“But it is this underlying misogynistic culture which ensures that violence against women and girls is endemic.
“By categorising it as a hate crime we will send a strong signal that it is not acceptable and that women and girls have the right to live free from abuse and objectification.”
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