A legal review is set to be launched into whether to classify misogyny as a hate crime, following a concerted efforts from campaigners to change the law.
The commitment from the government was announced during a debate in Parliament on Wednesday (5 September) on the proposed Voyeurism Bill to make the specific act of taking photograph up someone’s skirt without their permission a criminal offence. MPs voted to approve the bill and send it to the House of Lords for further consideration.
Labour MP Stella Creasy had submitted an amendment to the proposed law that would allow for tougher sentencing of those convicted of hate crimes against women if misogyny – the dislike of, contempt for or ingrained prejudice against women – were deemed to be an aggravated or contributing factor to the crime.
While Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said that the government did not feel the Voyeurism Bill to be the correct vehicle for such a change in the law, she did announce that the Law Commission would be launching a full review of hate crime legislation, including whether misogyny should be considered a hate crime.
Frazer said: “I will be asking the Law Commission to undertake a review of the coverage and approach of hate crime legislation following their earlier recommendation to do so. This will include how protected characteristics including sex and gender characteristics should be considered by new or existing hate crime law.”
Creasy agreed to withdraw her amendment after saying that the government’s announcement “goes further than the original amendment” and is “a big step towards calling time on street harassment and to saying misogyny isn’t an inevitable part of life women should put up with or all men commit, but something that damages our society and each of us can make sure is tackled.”
Such a change in the law would criminalise the street harassment of women and would take trial policies enacted by Nottinghamshire, North Yorkshire and Avon and Somerset police forces that see misogynistic behaviour recorded as hate crimes to the national level.
Campaigners seeking to make misogyny a hate crime welcomed the announcement. Martha Jepcott, a campaigner for Nottingham Citizens, a local group that pushed Nottinghamshire police to introduce a trial of the policy in 2014, described the announcement to the Guardian as “amazing”, adding: “We started working on this four and a half years ago in Nottingham, and it is surreal now to see it debated in the House of Commons.”
Deputy Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Amelia Womack, who was re-elected for a third term on Tuesday (4 September) and has long campaigned for misogyny to be made a hate crime, took to Twitter to express her satisfaction at the announcement:
Thrilled that we're one step closer to making misogyny a hate crime. Thank you to everyone who supported me in campaigning for this with @TheGreenParty, and to @nottswcentre for their grassroots innovation to tackle misogyny in our communities that has led us here ✊— Amelia Womack (@Amelia_Womack) 5 September 2018