Recognising misogynistic behaviour as a hate crime would be “a step too far”, Badenoch said during an appearance on Stylist’s new political TV show Women of the House.
Back in early September, the government announced that it was to consider whether or not to class misogynistic behaviour as a hate crime, as part of a comprehensive review of hate crime legislation.
The news was hailed by feminist campaigners and some MPs, who want crimes that are motivated by contempt for or prejudice against women to be treated as seriously as other hate crimes – such as those motivated by prejudices including racism, homophobia and transphobia.
But not all politicians are in favour of the potential change. Speaking on Stylist’s new political TV show Women of the House, Conservative MP Kemi Badenoch said she thought recognising misogyny as a hate crime wasn’t the right way to address the problem. “I think it’s a step too far,” she said.
“We need to think a little bit more about how we tackle these things, rather than thinking [there is] a legislative solution for everything.”
The MP for Saffron Walden agreed that “misogyny is definitely something that’s wrong.” But she expressed concern that if misogynistic behaviour became a hate crime, people could be charged with an offence simply for “saying something rude to a woman… whether or not [that rudeness was] because of their gender.”
It would be difficult to enforce a law that said misogyny was a hate crime, Badenoch said, because it may be “impossible to differentiate” between behaviours that are truly motivated by misogyny and those that aren’t.
She added that there was little point “making this legislation [if] no-one gets arrested for it.”
The Labour MP Jess Phillips, one of Badenoch’s fellow guests on Women of the House, observed that people do get arrested for other hate crimes under current legislation; they just rarely get sent to prison for them.
“Well, exactly,” Badenoch replied. “So what is the purpose of [classing things such as misogyny as hate crimes]?”
According to Nottinghamshire Police, which has been recording misogyny as a hate crime since 2016, misogyny is defined as “incidents against women that are motivated by the attitude of men towards women and includes behaviour targeted at women by men simply because they are women”.
Examples include sexual assault, upskirting, indecent exposure, groping, taking unwanted photographs on mobiles, online abuse, being followed home, whistling, sexually explicit language, unwanted sexual advances and threatening, aggressive or intimidating behaviour.
Many of these behaviours, such as sexual assault, are criminal offences in their own right – meaning that people could be arrested and prosecuted for them even if misogyny was not classed as a hate crime. Making misogyny a hate crime simply offers another distinct way to record this kind of conduct.
Under the Nottinghamshire scheme, misogynistic incidents that would not previously have been treated as crimes have not suddenly become illegal (in other words, nobody’s going to prison for wolf-whistling). Instead, they are recorded as hate incidents, allowing police to monitor the prevalence of this type of behaviour.
Badenoch appeared on Stylist’s new political TV show Women of the House alongside Labour MP Jess Phillips and SNP MP Hannah Bardell. The series, which is part of Stylist’s Visible Women campaign, was launched ahead of the 100th anniversary of women in the UK standing for election for the first time.
Find out more about Women of the House and watch the first full episode here.
Images: UK Parliament