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Mon, 13 July 2020

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Explained: Labour’s Stella Creasy and Nadia Whittome on why treating misogyny as a hate crime could aid the battle against domestic abuse

Explained: Labour’s Stella Creasy and Nadia Whittome on why treating misogyny as a hate crime could aid the battle against domestic abuse

MPs have proposed an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill that would recognise misogyny as a hate crime (PA)

5 min read

As the long-awaited Domestic Abuse Bill enters its committee stage, a group of MPs are urging the government to consider misogyny — hatred and contempt for women — as a hate crime.

The so-called ‘Amendment 84’ — tabled by Labour MP Stella Creasy, Lib Dem Christine Jardine and Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts — would require police to record offences which are explicitly motivated by misogyny as a hate crime.

Their proposal has received widespread backing from groups and charities including Citizens UK, Women’s Aid, Refuge, the Jo Cox Foundation and others.

Why do they argue that misogyny should be considered a hate crime?

By classifying misogyny as a hate crime, campaigners hope it will provide critical data on the link between hostility against women and the domestic abuse they experience.

Stella Creasy - one of the MPs who has proposed the amendment - told PoliticsHome: “In practical terms, this doesn't create any new forms of crime.

“It's about recognising the motivation behind the crime.

“If you start to identify [misogyny], you can start to track the victims, you can start to track the perpetrators.

“We know with this crime that there is a high level of repeat offending.”

The Walthamstow MP also pointed out that a Law Commission review into hate crimes is already due to start consulting on how to incorporate misogyny into current legislation.

Ms Creasy added: “They have said that they recognise there is a case for including misogyny alongside racial and religious forms of motivation for hate crime. But what this amendment would do is gather the data.”

Meanwhile, Charlotte Fischer from Citizens UK - one of the organisations backing the proposal - said: “Recording misogynistic hate crime allows us to identify patterns and perpetrators; it supports women to be able to name the experiences they have, and to know they will be believed when they do so.”

But aren’t women already protected?

As Ms Creasy points out, although sexual harassment itself is a crime, hostility based on sex is not. And the legal protections vary depending on where you are.

She explained: “The issue for us here is that right now, women are protected in the workplace, but not at home or on the street.

“So if somebody seeks to abuse you because of your sex in the workplace, there are laws about that. But as soon as you go home or you walk out on the streets, you're not protected.”

So what is the amendment proposing?

The amendment, which was presented to the committee overseeing the bill on Tuesday, requires ministers to issue guidance to police on “the relationship between domestic abuse and offences involving hostility based on sex”.

Police forces would also be required to report the number of “relevant crimes” — defined as incidences in which the alleged offender demonstrated hostility or prejudice based on sex.

No new offence is being proposed by the change, meaning that people cannot be prosecuted for acts of misogyny in the same way as other protected characteristics.

These protected characteristics already include disability, transgender status, race, religion and sexual orientation.

"Women are protected in the workplace, but not at home or on the street" - Stella Creasy

How has defining misogyny as a hate crime worked in practice?

So far, five police forces - Nottinghamshire Police, North Yorkshire, Somerset and Avon, and Northamptonshire - have adopted the new definition of misogyny.

The Nottinghamshire force was the first to pilot the change in 2016, and according to a joint report by the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, there is “clear support of the policy from both women and men”.

Researchers were reportedly "shocked" by the volume and nature of the incidents among people surveyed, and recommended rolling the new definition out nationally.

This call was backed by Labour MP for Nottingham East Nadia Whittome, who told PoliticsHome it “shouldn’t depend on the approach by local forces” whether someone’s experience of misogyny is recognised or not.

She added: “It's forced the police to have a better understanding of misogyny.

“And it's enabled women to feel more comfortable in reporting hate incidents and hate crimes to the police.”

So what about other hate crimes?

Ms Whittome did express some concern, however, at how this definition might be considered alongside other forms of hate crime.

“There's still the question of intersectionality,” she said.

“So, for example, Muslim women continue to experience a high rate of harassment and hate crimes. And that's religious, it's racial, but it's also very gendered.

“I think all three should be recorded [as a crime], but I'm not sure what the police process is.

“One of the problems is that this very much depends on the responding officer. And, that's why there needs to be a national policy for this. So that it's not dependent on individual forces.”

But, Ms Fischer from Citizens UK said she hoped that the new data would allow the government to better understand how different hate crimes can overlap.

She said: “By recognising how misogyny intersects with anti-black racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and other forms of discrimination we also can also map and understand how other forms of abuse affect women in specific and intersectional ways.”

What about domestic violence against men?

The amendment does not specifically state that misogyny should be a hate crime, describing the offence as “hostility or prejudice based on sex”.

But, Ms Creasy claimed that the focus of the amendment must be on women, telling PolHome: “There's always backlash or whenever you're talking about protecting women and treating them as equals.

“Every victim of domestic violence needs support. Nobody is suggesting that men are not victims of domestic violence.

“The evidence is that, overwhelmingly, this disproportionately affects women. So this is an evidence-based approach to tackling domestic violence.”

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