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

48 comments

Kevin B
Kevin B5 days ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
Frances G
Carla G10 days ago

Thanks for posting

SEND
Patricia A
Past Member 20 days ago

tyfs

SEND
Jan S
Jan Sabout a month ago

thanks for sharing

SEND
Coo R
Coo Rabout a month ago

good

SEND
Thomas M
Thomas M2 months ago

Thank you

SEND
Emily J
Emily J6 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.

SEND
Thomas M
Past Member 7 months ago

Thank you

SEND
Janis K
Janis K7 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Diane E
Diane E7 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.

SEND