Report by Ed Sheridan, Local Democracy Reporter
Islington councillors have voted in favour of a motion calling on the government to recognise misogyny as a hate crime in law.
The motion, brought by Labour councillors Alice Clarke-Perry and Flora Williamson, makes clear the need to strengthen legislation to recognise misogyny as the definition of a hate crime, or in other words an act of violence or hostility directed at people because of who they are.
The Law Commission is currently undertaking a review of all hate crime legislation to establish whether further additional characteristics should be granted legal protection, with misogyny not recorded as a hate crime by most police forces in the UK.
Cllr Clarke-Perry (St Peter’s ward) and Cllr Williamson’s (Tollington) motion states: “Like women and girls across the country, Islington residents suffer harassment and abuse every single day. A YouGov national survey in 2016 showed that 85% of women aged 18-24 were subjected to sexual harassment in public and approximately 23% of women in London say they feel unsafe in London at night.
“The adoption of misogyny as a hate crime has been successfully implemented in Nottingham, where analysis has shown an increase in reporting as well as an increase in the use of wider services. It has also shown that the vast majority of local people wanted the scheme to continue.
“Studies have also shown that the intersectional nature of discrimination means that women with additional protected characteristics, such as those who are black, Asian, minority ethnic, disabled or LGBT+, are even more likely to experience harassment, discrimination and abuse.”
Having passed the motion at its December council meeting, the council will now submit to the Law Commission’s consultation in favour of strengthening legislation. It will also lobby the government to listen to women and girls’ lived experience and act on any recommendations made making the law stronger.
The two councillors also called on the government to give greater resources and funding to the police to better tackle harassment, domestic abuse and misogyny, as well as on the borough’s own police force to record the harassment of women as a hate crime.
Five protected characteristics are currently recognised under hate crime law; race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender status, though the Law Commission has noted that not all protected characteristics are treated equally, with someone assaulted based on a disability not given the same protection as someone assaulted because of their race. Proposals include adding sex or gender to the protected characteristics, as well as equalising protection across all the characteristics.
Islington Council has invested £2million over three years to tackle violence against women and girls.
The motion added: “Making misogyny a hate crime would mean police forces would log and monitor incidents of hostility towards women and girls, as they do with other forms of hatred.
“It would not make anything a crime that isn’t already an offence but, could
help track, detect and prevent these crimes and so improve the protection of women and girls from abuse.
“It would also allow courts to take into account this behaviour when
someone is sentenced for such a crime.
“Moreover, it would help to change not only the prosecution and detection
of such crimes but the culture of acceptance of this abuse too, as well as
making women and girls feel safer and more comfortable.”