Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person, according to Article 3 of the United Nations Declaration of Rights.
By making hate crimes illegal we are protecting people’s rights. But do we always extend the same protections to women and girls? And if not, why not?
So, What is a Hate Crime?
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“A hate crime is a crime that is motivated by hate or takes the form of an expression of hate. It’s either targeted at a particular group because of the membership of that group whether it be in terms of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc,” says Aaron Winter, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of East London.
Right now, police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland monitor five types of hate crime based on:
- Gender Identity,
- Race, Ethnicity and Nationality,
- Religion, Faith or Belief, and
- Sexual Orientation.
Individual police forces can add to this list. For example, Greater Manchester Police now record offences against alternative sub-culture as hate crimes. So far two police forces, Nottinghamshire police and North Yorkshire Police, have added misogyny to their list of hate crimes.
“It all started in Nottingham,” says Deputy Chief Constable Lisa Winward of North Yorkshire Police who was responsible for making misogyny a recognised hate crime in North Yorkshire.
Misogyny isn’t a hate crime by definition of law. However, by individual police forces recognising it as such, they hope to encourage parliament to make misogyny a hate crime. “It’s through this groundswell of public interest that we can influence the legislation to reflect it in the charter,” says DCC Winward.
Is Misogyny Really that big a deal?
North Yorkshire Police have made a video about how misogyny has affected women. The women in the video said that being made aware that they could report a misogynistic hate crime to the police made them feel safer.
“Society is starting to realise that this sort of behaviour is not acceptable” says DCC Winward who compared the changing attitude towards misogyny with how the attitude towards causal racism has changed. “It [racism] wasn’t seen as a crime, years ago and now it’s seen as inciting racial hatred, as abusive behaviour etc. I think we’re on the same journey with women.”
Why Should We Bother? Could They Not Just Be Charged With Abuse?
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DCC Winward believes that if misogyny became a nationally recognised hate crime it might change the sentences of the perpetrators. Being charged with a gender aggravated public order offence, for example, rather than just a public order offence could change how that person’s behaviour is dealt with.
In 2016, 113 women were killed by a man. Most women murdered by men are killed by a current or former partner, and in many cases this may have been pre-empted by abusive or violent behaviour. If misogyny was officially recognised it might change how sentences are given out which might help to prevent cases like this.
“At the moment if somebody committed a criminal damage offence against a property, specifically due to the hatred of a woman, it wouldn’t read that it was a hate crime,” she says. “It would just be a charge of criminal damage and it wouldn’t actually reflect the fact that it was based on hatred of somebody’s protected characteristics”. This is because right now the law doesn’t recognise misogyny as a hate crime. If the same crime were committed but occurred as a result of the victim’s race, for example, then the charge would be ‘racially aggravated criminal damage’.
But that’s what the North Yorkshire police force, and others, are hoping to change. The campaign is “about recognising that some crimes are driven by a hatred towards gender of somebody and we think that should be recognised in law” says DCC Winward.
What About Misandry? Shouldn’t That Be Recognised Too?
Being discriminated against because you are a man is obviously a violation of your rights. “It’s quite obvious gender is central to our understanding of power and inequality in society,” says Winter. Winter believes that women are much more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than a man.
He believes that misogyny should be protected because it is related to both power and “a particular kind of hate”. Dr Winter also said that there is also intersectionality in hate crimes. “It should also be noted that anti-Muslim attacks have really disproportionately targeted women and so there is a gender element to other forms of hate crime” he adds.
Since North Yorkshire announced they would record misogyny as a hate crime, people have gotten in touch to ask what about misandry (when women have a hatred towards men). “We’ve taken that on board,” says DCC Winward who added that the force is quite willing to record an incident of misandry when men come forward.
Since North Yorkshire police announced they would record misogyny as a hate crime last May, they’ve recorded 8 incidents where the crime has been identified as being aggravated by a misogynistic act. No misandry crimes had been recorded that DCC Winward was aware of.