The issue of violence against women and girls is at the forefront of many minds recently. Classing misogyny as a category of hate crime would not make anything illegal that isn’t already. The law has not changed – it is solely about how we record these crimes.
What is a hate crime?
When a crime is carried out against someone – such as assault, harassment or criminal damage – if it is proven that it was because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity, it is considered a hate crime. There is no specific hate crime offence in England and Wales, but when a crime falls into one of the above categories, judges have enhanced sentencing powers and can increase the punishment as a result. Campaigners say sex and gender should be added to this list, arguing misogyny is one of the “root causes” of violence against women.
Citizens UK and a coalition of campaigners – including Refuge and Women’s Aid – also believe the approach would provide critical data on the link between hostility to women and the abuse and harassment women experience.
What does the UK government say?
Speaking to BBC Breakfast from his party conference, Boris Johnson appeared to not support making misogyny a hate crime. The prime minister said there was “abundant statute” to tackle violence against women, and claimed by “widening the scope of what you ask the police to do, you will just increase the problem”.
Meanwhile, the Law Commission is carrying out a “wide-ranging review into hate crime to explore how to make current legislation more effective, and if there should be additional protective characteristics”. The Commission which is an independent body that advises government has already released its initial conclusions, saying that sex or gender based hostility should be added to the existing five characteristics protected in hate crime laws.
But it has not yet made its official recommendations and they are not expected to be published until the autumn.