Following a slew of violent crimes against wom*n this year, our government is now considering making misogyny something that the police would record as a hate crime. While this does point towards positive change, the pitfalls in our justice system mean it will almost certainly serve as a frustrating reminder of how far we still have to go. Poppy Read-Pitt gives her evaluation.
Misogyny possibly becoming a hate crime is certainly welcome and it’s something that has been sort after for years by many activist groups. Stella Creasy (the MP for Walthamstow) has led the campaign in the hopes that it will help us better understand the scale of misogyny in the UK and that this will, in turn, help us to combat it.
Many of the UK’s largest women’s charities also backed misogyny becoming a hate crime, with institutions such as UN Women UK, Citizens UK and the Fawcett Society all arguing that it would provide data that was critical for tackling misogyny in Britain.
problems arise when we start thinking about how the realities of this law could play out
Certainly, this potential change feels hopeful. Treating misogyny as a crime reinforces the message that it is not acceptable to be prejudice against wom*n, which is a positive attitude for our government and justice system to be publicly supporting. There is also the hope that that by better quantifying experiences of misogyny we can target more intersectional issues as we learn more about how different protected characteristics interact.
However, problems arise when we start thinking about how the realities of this law could play out. Before this potential change was announced country wide, it had a pilot scheme that had been active since 2016 in the Nottinghamshire Police force. In 2017 and 2018 the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University partnered to conduct research into the introduction of this law, and this research revealed a system that was littered with institutional issues and attitudes that were not conducive to effectively upholding the law.
The same issues that we had seen plague other female centric crimes – like the awfully low conviction rates for rape – seemed to be just as prevalent here. The research found that in a two-year period (from April 2016 to March 2018), 174 women reported misogynistic hate crimes. Out of those 174 reports, only one resulted in a conviction.
no matter what laws we put in place to protect women we cannot trust that they will be enacted effectively
The research also documented many members of the police force being unsupportive of the introduction of the law. There were also testimonies from women who claimed that some police officers seemed to display a complete lack of knowledge of the law at all, with one woman talking of an experience where she tried to report a misogynistic hate crime only to be told by the police that misogyny was not a hate crime, despite the pilot experiment being active at the time.
Despite the hope for more effective change, we are continuously circling back to the inequities of our justice system. It is encouraging to see items being implemented with good intentions and supported by women’s rights movements, but we are unable to escape the fact that our justice system is so inherently flawed that no matter what laws we put in place to protect women we cannot trust that they will be enacted effectively.
Time will reveal whether this is a genuine step forward towards better protection for women and girls, or if it is only something that empowers them on paper.
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