A coalition of women’s rights activists have expressed disappointment and frustration after the Law Commission decided to reject a proposal to make misogyny a hate crime.
The commission, an independent body which recommends legal changes for England and Wales, launched a consultation but concluded the decision would not address the ‘real problem’ of hostility or prejudice against women because of their sex or gender.
Instead, in a report released on Tuesday, he recommends the government consider introducing a specific offense to tackle public sexual harassment, which he says would be more effective.
He also proposes expanding the existing offense of incitement to hatred to do so on the basis of sex and gender, saying it would help combat “the growing threat of ‘incel’ [involuntary celibate] ideology and its potential to lead to serious criminal offences”.
But a statement from 20 leading organizations and campaigners for women’s rights and hate crimes, including the Fawcett Society, Citizens UK, Stella Creasy MP, Rights of Women and former Nottinghamshire Police Constable Sue Fish , said the Law Commission had failed to address “concerns about the inaction of the criminal justice system” and vowed to keep fighting.
They said, “The commission’s review is too narrow and fails to recognize the value of including misogyny to allow the recording of incidents, which are currently invisible. By failing to bring together hate crime legislation, it specifically ignores the experiences of women in minority communities who experience hate based on multiple factors, but are too often let down by the criminal justice system because they don’t fit. to their checkboxes.
“This report should not be used by the government to launch actions against violence against women and girls in the long grass and should instead support proposals for legislation now, including the urgent roll-out of the recording misogynistic crimes across all police forces Women and girls have waited too long to be equally protected and will continue to fight for it.
The commission suggested that sex or gender should become a protected characteristic for the purposes of hate crime – alongside race, religion, trans identity, sexual orientation and disability – in September of last year, opening the idea up for consultation. It followed a successful pilot project in Nottinghamshire.
In the months that followed, attention grew on the hostility regularly directed against women, including the murder of sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman. Following the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met police officer, hundreds of women have shared their experiences of feeling unsafe at home.
But in October Boris Johnson dismissed the idea that misogyny should be a hate crime, saying: ‘If you just widen the scope of what you’re asking the police to do, you’ll only make the problem worse’ . Justice Secretary Dominic Raab also dismissed the suggestion while appearing confused about the meaning of misogyny, suggesting it could apply to the abuse of women or men.
In a summary of its report, the Law Commission said: “We recognize that many people may disagree with our conclusion and find it difficult to understand given the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence and abuse. We have made our recommendations in this regard based on the evidence and policy considerations available to us. While appealing on the surface, we don’t believe making misogyny a hate crime will deliver tangible results as many activists have suggested.
The commission said adding sex or gender to hate crime laws, creating new aggravated offences, is unlikely to capture much public sexual harassment because it would still struggle to meet the thresholds for lawsuits. He also said it could add complexity to rape and domestic violence prosecutions, making it harder to secure convictions and creating unnecessary “hierarchies of victims”.
Anna Birley, organizer of Reclaim These Streets, which organized the Clapham Common vigil for Everard before it was banned by police, said women deserved ‘full and equal protection’, and making misogyny a hate crime “essentially…allows police to identify problem areas and perpetrators and intervene to prevent serious violence and abuse from occurring”.
After Everard’s murder, the government ordered police forces to collect data on crimes apparently motivated by hostility to women, but the National Police Chiefs Council said it was still awaiting guidance from the Ministry of the Interior on how the registration should be carried out.
The attempt to challenge incel culture comes after Jake Davison shot and killed five people in Plymouth in August, before killing himself, having previously used incel forums and referenced the movement in online posts.
The Home Office said it would respond to the Law Commission’s recommendations in due course.