On her way home from a night out last year, my friend Azmina was walking down the street in a West end when a man walked up to her, shouted abuse and punched her in the crotch.[1]

Another friend, Hannah, has had to give up running in the evenings, as the regular occurrence of men shouting obscenities at her made her feel unsafe.

Sadly, these experiences aren’t isolated ones. At some point, most women will have experienced some kind of gender based violence, harassment or abuse.[2]

This has a huge impact upon women’s freedom of movement, mental health and general wellbeing. Like Hannah, over 60% of women who responded to a Nottingham University study had changed their behaviour as a result of experiencing abusive behaviour.[3]

Everyday misogyny, and our society’s tolerance of it, also creates the conditions for the disproportionate violence women and girls face. In the UK alone, 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime and 1 in 4 will experience domestic abuse.[4] As well as the home and public places, women increasingly face harassment online, with a recent Amnesty report showing online abuse disproportionately targeted at women.[5]  The intersectional nature of discrimination means that LGBT+ women and women of colour are even more likely to be targeted.

Yet, under the law, women are protected from abuse on the basis of their gender in the workplace but not on the street or in their homes. And while we have hate crime legislation in place to protect other groups, this doesn’t apply to women.

That’s why my colleague Susan Wise (Labour Councillor for Perry Vale) and I have brought a motion to Lewisham Council, calling on the Council to support proposals by the Law Commission to make misogyny a hate crime.

The campaign to make misogyny a hate crime has been spearheaded through the work of groups such as Citizens UK, Hope not Hate, Southall Black Sisters, Tell MAMA UK, the Fawcett Society and the Labour MP Stella Creasy.

Their hard work led Nottinghamshire Police Force to become the first in the UK to record misogyny as a hate crime. Between April 2016 and March 2018, 174 women reported a wide range of crimes, with 73 classified as hate crimes as 101 as hate incidents. Analysis showed that the vast majority of people interviewed wanted the scheme to continue and several other police forces have since followed suit.[6]

Classifying misogyny as a hate crime would not criminalise acts that aren’t already illegal, nor would it make it illegal to hold misogynistic beliefs. What it would do is allow the courts to recognise that crimes can be motivated by a hatred of women and impose harsher sentences accordingly. It would also influence how Police forces approach these crime, encouraging victims to come forward and ensuring that we have better data in future.

More widely, classifying misogyny as a hate crime would send a strong signal that we, as a society, will no longer tolerate this kind of behaviour and be a step forward in tackling violence against women and girls.

Sophie Davis is a Labour Councillor for Forest Hill Ward, Lewisgam

[1] Azmina reacted by making him acknowledge what he’d done and apologise on camera – https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/woman-makes-man-apologise-after-punching-her-vagina-a7108646.html

[2] In the UK, 85% of young women had experienced street harassment and 45% experienced it as sexual touching (YouGov for End Violence Against Women Coalition 2016)

[3] https://www.nottinghamwomenscentre.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Misogyny-Hate-Crime-Evaluation-Report-June-2018.pdf, p11.

[4] https://homeofficemedia.blog.gov.uk/2019/03/07/violence-against-women-and-girls-and-male-position-factsheets/

[5] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2018/03/online-violence-against-women-chapter-1/

[6] https://www.nottinghamwomenscentre.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Misogyny-Hate-Crime-Evaluation-Report-June-2018.pdf

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