Misogyny should not be made a hate crime in the UK, according to a review

Written by Amy Beecham

The Law Commission report has rejected a proposal to treat misogyny as a “protected characteristic” in law that can be used to record incidents and increase sentences.

Women’s rights campaigners have expressed their anger and frustration following the Law Commission’s decision to reject a proposal that would make misogyny a hate crime.

Many activist groups, including Stylist’s A Fearless Future campaign, had welcomed the possibility that “threatening or abusive material which incites and glorifies violence, including sexual violence against women and girls, and praises men who murder women” would be criminalised.

However, the Law Commission, an independent body which advises the government, said the move would be “ineffective at protecting women and girls and in some cases, counterproductive”. 

At least 11 police forces in the UK are already recording misogyny as a hate crime, based on their own definitions, but the official review said sex or gender should not be made a “protected characteristic” that can be used to record incidents and increase sentences alongside race, religion and other factors.

Campaigners and senior police officers had publicly backed making misogyny a hate crime last month, responding to calls to tackle “epidemic” levels of violence against women and girls in the wake of the murders of Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, Sabina Nessa and Bobbi-Anne McLeod.

The national police lead for hate crime, Mark Hamilton, previously told a conference that adding sex or gender to the current list of protected characteristics was a “good way of understanding offender behaviour and preventing things escalating from the more minor offences up to sexually-motivated crime and murder.”

Instead, the Law Commission recommended of extending the offence of stirring up hatred to sex and gender, saying it would help tackle the growing threat of “incel” ideology and suggested ministers set up a review into the need for a specific offence of public sexual harassment.

Responding to the decision, women’s rights and hate crime organisations, including the Fawcett Society and Citizens UK, said the review had offered no alternatives to “help address widespread concerns about the lack of action by the criminal justice system”.

“The Commission’s review is too narrow and doesn’t recognise the value of including misogyny to enable recording of incidents which are currently invisible,” added the statement, which was also signed by Labour MP Stella Creasy.

“Very disappointed to learn that the Law Commission will not support making misogyny a hate crime. Nottingham Police piloted this and it increased reporting of VAWG. The government must act now,” wrote Dr Charlotte Proudman, a barrister, on Twitter.

The Home Office promised to look “carefully” at the proposals.

Support Stylist’s campaign for #AFearlessFuture by writing to Home Secretary Priti Patel here. 

Image: Getty

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