The Home Office has announced a review into whether misogyny and misandry – hostility towards men – should be recognised as hate crimes. Here are all the key facts.
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, the Home Office has announced a major legislative review, which could see offences motivated by misogyny officially recognised as hate crimes.
The Law Commission, the independent body that recommends legal reforms in England and Wales, is set to examine current hate crime laws to see if they need to be updated.
As well as misogyny, the review will also look at whether offences motivated by misandry – prejudice against men – should be treated as hate crimes. Further down the line, ageism and prejudice against alternative cultures such as goths and punks could also be included in the review in future.
Contrary to the way that this issue has been discussed on social media and in some sections of the press, classifying misogynistic or misandrist behaviour as hate crimes won’t mean that police officers can suddenly start arresting people for making sexist jokes, or saying that they hate men.
Dr Stevie-Jade Hardy, associate professor at the Centre for Hate Studies at the University of Leicester, tells stylist.co.uk: “In order for someone to be charged and prosecuted for a hate crime, the individual needs to have committed a criminal offence, such as a public order offence or violence against the person.
“Making a crude joke about someone’s gender is not a criminal offence and the Law Commission isn’t looking to create one.
“Rather misogyny and misandry – and age – will be added to an existing list of protected characteristics meaning that if an individual has committed a criminal offence and that offence was motivated by prejudice or hostility towards the victim’s gender, the courts can increase the sentence.”
The government first announced that it would be commissioning a review into hate crime legislation back in September, after Stella Creasy put forward an amendment to the voyeurism bill.
The Labour MP for Walthamstow wanted misogyny to be recognised as an ‘aggravating factor’ in crimes, meaning that police forces would be required to record whether hostility towards woman had motivated a criminal offence. If her amendment had been passed, courts would also be allowed to consider whether someone was driven by misogyny when sentencing an offender.
Creasy’s amendment wasn’t accepted at the time, because other ministers didn’t think that the voyeurism bill – the legislation that banned upskirting – was the appropriate vehicle for changing hate crime laws.
Instead, the government asked Law Commission to review how sex and gender characteristics were treated within existing hate crime laws.
So we knew the Law Commission’s review was coming. What we didn’t anticipate was that the body would also consider whether misandry should be classed as a hate crime.
However, Home Office Minister Baroness Williams has said that the government isn’t suggesting that misandry should be treated as a hate crime – it’s simply asking the Law Commission for its views on the subject.
In a statement, Creasy called on Home Secretary Sajid Javid to “insist that all police forces learn from Nottinghamshire where police have been recording misogynistic crimes for the last two years. This would not only help drive change, it would also help us get a better picture of the full extent of these problems.”
Creasy also stressed that the voices of women and other people who are targets of hate crime because of their identity should “be at the heart of any new hate crime framework.
“Including new characteristics in hate crime law will require new legislation and formal consultation, so we need a timetable for action to show those whose lives are affected how and when they can finally be heard.”
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