Inside the Feminist Campaign to Make Misogyny a Hate Crime in the UK

Written by Rosalind Jones

In May 2016, Nottinghamshire police began recording public harassment of women as a hate crime—meaning that instances of sexual assault, catcalling and capturing or releasing unwanted photos would be punished more severely. The purpose of the reclassification is to eradicate the root causes of gender based violence, rather than taking a reactive approach after an incident has occurred. Deputy Green Party Leader Amelia Womack has been leading the charge by campaigning to expand the rule to the entire UK.

The opinions of police officers stand in sharp contrast to the sentiments—and experiences—of the public. While it’s important to punish the perpetrators of violent crimes, supporters argued that most of the change of policy was meant to bring awareness to how pervasive misogyny is. Data collected in Nottingham entirely supported Womack’s assertion that public harassment was only the tip of the iceberg—and the most obvious manifestation of widespread misogyny.

When surveyed, a poll by Nottingham Trent University found that 93.7 percent of respondents had experienced or street harassment. When the Nottingham police began accepting reports of misogynistic actions as hate crimes, the number of reports skyrocketed.

“There’s a lot of focus on the number of prosecutions, but that was not what this was about,” Helen Voce, the chief executive of Nottingham Women’s center said in The Guardian. “The primary objective of the policy change was not to see hundreds of prosecutions, it was to let people know that this behavior isn’t acceptable and will not be tolerated in Nottinghamshire.”

“Indeed, it is such trivialisation of these activities as not really ‘criminal’ which has led to under-reporting and prosecution necessitating the need for both the policy and accompanying societal change,” said Professor Loretta Trickett, a law professor at Nottingham Trent University. “The policy is therefore concerned with encouraging women and girls to report both criminal behaviors occurring in public to the police.”

Last year, amidst the global flurry of the #MeToo movement, Womack shared her own experiences with domestic violence and argued that misogyny and violence in private spaces are inextricably linked. The work of feminist organizers and politicians to legally classify misogyny and public harassment as a hate crime takes a giant step towards labeling sexism as a truly damaging force in society—and for advocates like Womack, the fight is just beginning.

“My experience of politics and my motivation for becoming a politician has been informed by my experience of being a woman. I have witnessed and felt the casual and the often violent misogyny women experience and that still goes unchallenged in many walks of life,” she said in a speech. “To tackle a problem, you first have to acknowledge that it exists.”

This post originally appeared on Ms. Magazine.

Photo Credit: Madalena Veloso/Unsplash

42 comments

Emily J
Emily J4 months ago

The kind of harassment that most girls and women experience when walking to school or work, on public transport, etc. is disgraceful, it isn't just a bit of banter but obscene comments, threats, actual sexual assault, having someone get aggressive because you reject their advances etc. It can be very scary and intimidating as you don't know when someone will take it further than shouting and comments and become violent. I think this needs to be taken seriously, when 10 and 11 year old girls have to deal with sexual harassment from grown men as well as other children on the way to school there is a problem. I also think that there needs to be an equivalent law to protect men from gender-based harrassment as well, to ensure everyone is protected from this behaviour.

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Thomas M
Past Member 5 months ago

Thank you

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Janis K
Janis K5 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Diane E
Diane E5 months ago

Thank you for raising this topic. Misogyny is rife in many areas of employment and on public transport, in the streets etc. Please keep up the pressure on authorities to take more notice of women's experiences of harassment.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara5 months ago

stop the awful treatment of women and girls

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara5 months ago

good

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Janis K
Janis K5 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Amanda M
Amanda M5 months ago

Renata B, I've got that beat-I spent 8 years as a security guard, and I've been prevented from working at job sites simply because I am a woman (the argument was something about how the employees felt "safer" with male guards or they feared they'd have to worry more about a female guard getting hurt, or some such balderdash), and once I even spent a whole WEEKEND at a job site where I learned it so well that I was even able to train another guard that same weekend, only to be told on Monday morning when the boss came in that "I wasn't supposed to be there because I'm a woman." I told him right back "You mean that I wasted an entire weekend learning this place well enough to even teach another guard how to work here too simply because I have tits instead of a dick?"

I hope this attitude towards misogyny spreads to the US-I'm SICK of how Twitler and the Rethuglican Religious Reich are trying to turn back the clock on women's rights and freedoms. We are NOT tongueless brood mares, we are NOT walking wombs, we are NOT merely house slaves to men,and we are DEFINITELY not the property of men-we are PEOPLE!

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx5 months ago

Elisabeth H : I wonder what gender you are ?? And even if you were a man, the word "EMPATHY" is NOT NOT NOT in your dictionary. Murder is worse ? Yes, may be BUT many women that have been harassed / bullied / raped are often killed as well. Then, isn't it better to listen carefully to the women who have been harassed, so they eventually can recognize the perpetrators more easily and also determine their way of working. Each of these morons have a specific way to get in contact with his victims..... or don't they know that on your planet.

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckx5 months ago

Harassment against women is still a HOT topic. As long as the Government is NOT protecting adequately girls and women and men think that they are allowed to do it, as generally they have NO serious penalties / jail time, why should they stop ?? There are many young & also elder men who want to express their sexual abilities to each and every women. And if these are not agreeable to their advances, then it happens by force. THIS MUST STOP. Also harassment & even rape between man and woman in a relationship of marriage, must be punished the same way as if it were 2 strange people. It's not because she is your wife, that you can have sexual intercourse the way HE want, and WHEN he wants, even it's f.i. 5 times a day !! Women are fighting over 50 years for more equality, same loans, etc.. but as far as this topic is concerned, we have reached nearly NOTHING !! Western women have moved a little forwards, but in most other countries / religions, women are NOT HEARD !

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