Misogyny is now officially a hate crime
The change in the law in England and Wales comes as 97% of young women report being a victim of harassment.
Photography by Nora Nord
Misogyny will now be recorded as a hate crime in England and Wales, the Home Office announced yesterday evening. The development comes after campaigners including the Fawcett Society and politicians including MP Stella Creasy lobbied for tougher legislation to protect women, following the death of Londoner Sarah Everard.
What the change means in practice is that police across England and Wales will now be ordered to officially record all crimes they judge to have been motivated by “hostility based on” gender. This could apply to a whole gamut of crimes, including murder, sexual offences, stalking, domestic violence and also harassment, which recent figures proved to be miserably endemic, with 97% of 18 to 24 year-old women reporting that they had experienced sexual harassment at some point.
Though seven police forces across the UK already recorded incidents motivated by misogyny as hate crimes, this now means that all 42 police forces in England and Wales will be officially instructed to follow suit. “I’m delighted that the government has listened to this cross-party and grassroots campaign to make misogyny a hate crime and is now taking the first steps towards making it happen,” Stella Creasy MP said in a statement. “It should give all women confidence that if they come forward to report crimes they will be taken seriously, too.”
The Fawcett Society and the Jo Cox foundation also welcomed the news on social media, as well as London Mayor Sadiq Khan. “It’s time for every Londoner to call out sexist and misogynistic attitudes wherever they are found,” he wrote, “in the workplace, school, on the streets or public transport.”
Since Sarah Everard’s disappearance and death at the beginning of March, women have taken to the streets of London and other cities across the UK to demand systemic change and greater protections, and this seems like a step in the right direction. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is, after all, coming from the Tories.
While the change was officially announced last night by Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford, the new legislation will initially be implemented on an “experimental basis” from autumn onwards. Whether misogyny will remain a hate crime will not be decided until a review by the Law Commission.
Until then, this is a step in the right direction, but it’s nonetheless a bitter pill to swallow, not least because, regardless of motive, prosecution for crimes against women is abysmal. When you take into consideration in particular that last year alone, just one in 70 reported rapes resulted in an eventual conviction, it’s clear that we have to go further than this legislative empty gesture. While it’s good news that violence against women is being addressed at a policy level, it shouldn’t have taken the tragic murder of Sarah Everard to get us here.