Misogyny: becoming a hate crime in England

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“Misogyny is now a hate crime.” These five words have been repeatedly posted on Instagram stories and occupied national newspaper headlines. Yet these five words, which aim to make women’s lives safer have still managed to spark debate. 

Simultaneously championed as a “game-changer” yet trivialised as “arrests for wolf-whistling” by naïve media, misogyny will now be recorded by police as a hate crime. The change will come into force for all 43 police constabularies for a trial period in autumn. The move is not a change in the as it is already possible to categorize violence on gender-based grounds as a hate crime. 

Why has it taken the death of one woman, Sarah Everard, to pressure the government to finally accept that stalking and harassment are not a side-effect of womanhood?

Nottinghamshire police, in 2016 were the pioneers in making harassment of women a hate crime. The battle to create uniformity across other police forces has been long. Why has it taken the death of one woman, Sarah Everard, to pressure the government to finally accept that stalking and harassment are not a side-effect of womanhood?

Hate crimes have previously been defined as criminal behaviour motivated by hostility towards so-called ‘protected characteristics’, disabilities, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity. Sex and gender, an intrinsic part of a person’s identity will now be added to this list. 

Previously Minority groups have been the victims of hate crimes. Equalities Minister, Victoria Atkin in 2018 raised concern that the new change “would inadvertently conflict with principles of equality”. Yet, when women cannot walk down a dark street without gripping onto a set of keys until their knuckles are white, when women are three times more likely to experience threats and acts of sexual violence and assault than men; it is difficult to refute that in making misogyny a hate crime we are not aiming towards greater equality. 

The police are wrapped up in as Sue Fish, former chief constable of Nottinghamshire police describes as a “toxic culture of sexism”.

This change empowers women on paper. Yet will real change follow. The aim of reporting gender and sex-based discrimination is an attempt to provide “critical data” for investigations rather than dish out punishments. Data is not a solution. Police officers themselves have criticized the move as nothing more than a “tick-box exercise.” The new change will identify in what location a woman is more likely to suffer, but it will not stop the suffering. A shift in societal attitudes, better training of police and better resources are needed as well to make progressive change. 

The police are wrapped up in as Sue Fish, former chief constable of Nottinghamshire police describes as a “toxic culture of sexism”. Stella Creasy, a chief campaigner of the cause hopes that women will feel more confident in reporting abuse to the police. Yet, women’s confidence in the police is at an all-time low. Police are currently villainized, and we must ask whether they are the right body to solve violence towards women.   

Between 2016-2018, Nottinghamshire Police only secured one conviction for a hate crime against women. Crimes of violence against women have staggeringly low conviction rates as it stands. Hate crimes, dubbed as less serious in the eyes of the masses, will follow this pattern. This raises ironic concerns that we would witness the decriminalisation of misogyny. Making misogyny a hate crime may further segregate women and men into an ‘us and them’ narrative. This is unhelpful. 

The women of Nottingham have said that they are “walking taller”, that they can “hold their heads high”. So, any step to make women feel safer is a welcome addition. But we must be wary about whether this step is not just a governmental attempt to seem to be doing something around changing cultural attitudes towards women’s safety. These five words have created conversation yet will they produce profound change. 

Image: roga muffin via Flickr

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