After the murders, the UK asks: should misogyny be a hate crime?

LONDON – As anger grew in Britain last week over the justice system’s approach to violence against women, public discourse turned to a n...


LONDON – As anger grew in Britain last week over the justice system’s approach to violence against women, public discourse turned to a new question: Should misogyny be considered a hate crime?

The debate comes amid a wider national outcry over gender-based crimes following the murder of Sarah Everard, including the kidnapping and murder by a London policeman shocked the British and forced a renewed scrutiny of how the police and the courts deal with such cases.

Opposition activists, criminal justice experts and lawmakers have called for legislation to broaden the definition of a hate crime to ensure tougher penalties for crimes such as harassment, domestic violence and criminal harassment and report the seriousness of these types of offenses. But the government has so far ruled out this possibility.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson asserts that there is already “abundant” legislation to combat violence against women, but it is not properly enforced. In an interview at the Conservative Party’s annual conference last week, he acknowledged that the way the justice system deals with these crimes “just isn’t working,” but said he felt “the widening of the scope” would increase the burden of the police.

This reasoning baffled some activists. “When have we ever taken the magnitude of a problem as a reason not to act? Asked Ruth Davison, Executive Director of Refuge, a charity that supports women and children facing domestic violence.

The activists point out some invigorating data. One in four women in Britain has suffered sexual assault, according to government statistics. Almost one in three women will experience domestic violence in their life. And on average, a woman is killed by a man every three days in the country, with numerous cases of domestic violence, according to data from the census of feminicides.

The murders of a number of other women in Britain this year – including the murder last month of Sabina Nessa – have only intensified calls for change.

Refuge – which staged a related protest last week to draw attention to police violence against women – is one of many groups campaigning for crimes rooted in misogyny to be treated as hate crimes . Groups say misogyny is the basis of most male violence against women and that the government has so far failed to deal with such violence.

Ms Davison said Refuge’s efforts were not aimed at creating a new classification of crimes, which opponents said would add a complex additional burden on police. Rather, the group argues that recognizing misogyny as a hate crime would give the justice system sweeping powers to tackle a pervasive problem.

In England and Wales, an offense is considered a hate crime when it is proven that the perpetrator was motivated by hostility or prejudice relating to one or more of the following five categories: race, religion, orientation gender, disability or transgender identity. This allows judges to hand down harsher sentences and gives police more clarity on the execution by categorizing these crimes as more serious.

Activists want gender added to this list.

The Law Commission, an independent body which reviews the laws in England and Wales and advises the government, is in the midst of a government-ordered review of existing hate crime laws, and although its official recommendation is still pending, a first conclusion recommended add sex or gender to protected characteristics list under hate crime laws.

Andrew Bazeley, policy officer for the Fawcett Society, a gender equality charity campaigning for change, put it simply: “It’s about acknowledging the misogyny that exists in existing crimes.

Some women’s rights advocates have suggested that an amendment to expand the definition of a hate crime be added to a police and crime bill that is making its way through Parliament. But Mr Johnson has made it clear that he opposes the move and his government has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks by opponents who say it is not taking the issue seriously enough.

Conservative leaders, for example, have resisted growing calls to replace Metropolitan Police Chief Cressida Dick after the shocking revelations In regards to the path Ms. Everard’s killer used his authority as a police officer to kidnap her.

Criticism intensified last week after UK Justice Minister Dominic Raab appeared unfamiliar with the meaning of the term misogyny. When asked what he thought of the categorization as a hate crime, he said he did not support the decision, adding that “misogyny is absolutely bad whether it is male versus female or a woman against a man “.

Her blunder – misogyny is defined as an ingrained hatred or prejudice against women in particular – drew a swift reaction.

“It is the real justice secretary who will be responsible for responding to proposals from legal committees on how to implement misogyny as a hate crime,” Stella Creasy, a Labor lawmaker, wrote in a message on Twitter with a video of Mr. Raab’s blunder.

“Hate crimes don’t make anything illegal that isn’t illegal” she wrote in the magazine Grazia, “But rather ensure that abuses rooted in discrimination are taken more seriously.” “

Yet not all lawyers or criminal justice experts believe that making misogyny a hate crime is the most effective measure. Zoë Billingham, a former inspector for an independent watchdog looking at police services in Britain, said more should be done to get police officers to use the tools they already have.

“The police are not doing some of the really basic things to protect women from crimes of domestic violence, stalking, harassment, rape, aggravated sexual offenses and sexual exploitation of children,” she said. declared.

Less than 2 percent of rape cases reported in England and Wales result in a charge, and three in four reported domestic violence incidents are abandoned prematurely on the grounds that the victim did not support police action.

Marian Duggan, associate professor of criminology at the University of Kent whose research focuses on violence against women and hate crime policy, agrees the current system is broken. She said the hate crime statute could be a powerful symbolic tool that emphasizes the perpetrator rather than the victim.

In a culture where victim blame in cases of violence against women has long been the norm, Dr Duggan said this would be “seismic change”.

Some police services in England and Wales are already tracking misogynistic crimes such as hate crimes to raise awareness and collect data. But activists want national enforcement and legislation that backs up these measures to allow for tougher sentences.

This spring, after Ms. Everard’s murder, the government asked law enforcement to begin recording a person’s sex or gender-motivated violent crime as hate crimes on a trial basis. The national police coordination body did not respond to questions about the number of departments that have adopted this practice; activists say only 11 out of 43 have.

But Dr Duggan said viewing misogyny as a hate crime is only part of the complicated process of dismantling a broken system. She would also prefer to see more early intervention, education and prevention work.

“More severe punishment,” she added, “does not undo what has been done to the victim, especially if she is dead.”



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Newsrust - US Top News: After the murders, the UK asks: should misogyny be a hate crime?
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