14 JANUARY 2019

This blog was originally published by The Metro.

Do you ever get the feeling you are living in a parallel universe? That what is real for you somehow is completely missed by others?

I get that feeling quite a bit to be honest. A good example is the way that misogyny is completely ignored by our police and courts as a form of hate crime.

As the law currently stands, a hate crime is defined by the Crown Prosecution Service as: ‘any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person’ and references race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and people who are transgender.' You will notice that both gender and age are missing from the list.

Criminal offences can be categorised as hate crime. But police can also record an incident as a hate incident if the victim perceives that it was similarly motivated, regardless of whether it is a criminal offence or proceeds to prosecution. It can lead to tougher sentences, meaning judges can take the fact it was a hate crime into account when passing sentence in a case.

New Crime Survey data released by the Fawcett Society, in partnership with Citizens UK and Women’s Aid, and backed by a wide range of political and community voices, shows that gender-based hate crime is the most common form experienced by women.

We also see that black, Muslim and Jewish women are particularly targeted. There were 67,000 incidents last year, the majority of which were experienced by women and were mostly violent incidents.

But be clear, this is the tip of the iceberg. Other crime data shows that one in five women have experienced some form of sexual assault since they were 16. We also know that two women each week die at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.

The work of Everyday Sexism, followed by the rise in the #MeToo movement, has revealed increasing levels of online hate targeted at women with one in five experiencing abuse.

More recently, the sight of Anna Soubry MP being harassed as she walked down the street outside Parliament while the police stood by (they have now belatedly made an arrest), just weeks after we all joined forces to mark the centenary of women’s votes and call for more women to stand for election, all combines to tell me that we have a real problem with misogyny in our society and we need to challenge it.

As Women’s Aid say, domestic violence does not happen in a vacuum, it is part of a society which casually and routinely objectifies and abuses women. But whenever we raise this issue it is immediately trivialised. We are told that we are trying to ‘stop men wolf whistling’. No, we are trying to deal with the underlying causes of violence against women and girls.

In Nottinghamshire, where police have been recording misogyny hate crime, women aren’t reporting wolf whistling but they are feeling more confident in their police service and reporting serious crimes of assault, stalking and harassment, which would have gone unreported previously.

We want the rest of the country to follow Nottinghamshire’s lead and make misogyny a hate crime. But incidentally, do you ever wonder why we are more bothered about a man’s right to wolf whistle or cat call a woman in the street than her right to live free from harassment and abuse? The answer is, misogyny.

It’s time we faced up to it and called it out for what it is.


Sam Smethers, CE of FawcettSam is the Chief Executive of The Fawcett Society.

Campaigners have written to Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, and National Police Chiefs Council Chair, Sara Thornton, urging them to support making misogyny a hate crime. The letter calls on them to learn from the experience in Nottinghamshire, where police have introduced misogyny hate crime recording, which an online survey of Nottinghamshire residents found had an 87% approval rate. Read it here.

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