Over the past few decades, British society has made major strides when it comes to gender equality. However, UK women still face prejudice every day, in every sphere of life. I emphatically believe that we need to implement stronger legislation to ensure that British women can live their lives free from prejudice. In this article, I outline why misogyny should be classed as a hate crime.
First, we need to define a ‘hate incident’ and a ‘hate crime’ The UK government classes a hate incident as: “any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.” Citizens Advice writes that hate incidents can take on many forms, including verbal abuse e.g. name calling, harassment, bullying, physical attacks e.g. punching, online abuse and threats of violence.
It is clear that many of the acts which are defined as hate incidents are also criminal offences, meaning that they break UK law. A hate incident that becomes a criminal offence is known as a hate crime. Under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, British judges have the power to hand out tougher sentences for hate crimes. Therefore when we class something as a the crime, we lend extra protections to the most vulnerable members of society.
So why should misogyny be one of the categories of hate crime under British law? The Oxford English Dictionary defines misogyny as “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.” In other words, if we made misogyny a hate crime, we would allow judges to hand out tougher sentences to those who commit crimes which are motivated by prejudice towards women. How ingrained is misogyny in British society?
Roughly half of the UK’s 65+ million population are women. When we define ‘vulnerable’ for the purposes of hate crime, we tend to refer to society’s minority groups i.e. those whose voices can be drowned out by the majority. Under this definition, women are not a minority in British society and this may be the reason why the UK government has not made misogyny a hate crime. But sexist attitudes are still rife in the UK and that they are negatively impacting a British woman’s ability to lead a normal, happy life.
Attitudes towards women
Figures quoted by UK Feminista, a group which campaigns for gender equality, prove my point. There is an average full time pay gap of 10% between British men and women. Only one in every four UK MPs is a woman. Almost half (46%) of all global news content reinforces gender stereotypes which run counter to what it means to be a modern women. It is clear that many people still believe that a woman should behave and live her life in a certain way.
But does societal bias lead to crime? The statistics seem to suggest so. On average two British women are killed by a violent partner or ex-partner every week. As many as three million UK girls and women experience rape, domestic violence, stalking, or other violence per year. There is also evidence which indicates that prejudicial attitudes impact a woman’s ability to succeed in life. Every year, up to 300,000 women are fired because they’re pregnant, while up to 400,000 women per annum lose out on a promotion for the same reason.
Therefore, there is tangible proof that misogyny can cause people to commit crimes women because they are women and thus, it applies for hate crime status. It seems as though the Nottinghamshire Police agree with me, as the BBC reports that they have recently decided to start recording misogynistic incidents as hate crimes.
They now define misogyny-based hate crime as: “Incidents against women that are motivated by an attitude of a man towards a woman and includes behaviour targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman.”
Commenting on this new policy, Nottinghamshire Police Chief Constable Sue Fish said: “What women face, often on a daily basis, is absolutely unacceptable and can be extremely distressing. Nottinghamshire Police is committed to taking misogynistic hate crime seriously and encourages anyone who is affected by it to contact us without hesitation.”
Speaking out, Melanie Jeffs, the Centre Manager for the Nottinghamshire Women’s Centre, which will help the Police protect women who have been the victims of misogyny-based hate crime, noted: “We’re pleased to see Nottinghamshire Police recognise the breadth of violence and intimidation that women experience on a daily basis in our communities.
“Recording this as a hate crime will give us a detailed picture of how often, when and where it is happening. It has been very difficult to build that picture before but we will now get detailed data to analyse. Showing that the police take it seriously will also give people the confidence to come forward and report offences.”
Whether we want to believe it or not, misogyny is alive and well in modern day Britain. Sometimes, sexist attitudes can lead women to become the victims of crime, just because they are women and in my opinion that is not acceptable in 2016. If we followed the Nottinghamshire Police’s example and make misogyny a hate crime, we can give British women the peace of mind they need to live their lives without the fear that something bad will happen because of something they can’t control.