Any Law Classing ‘Misogyny’ A Hate Crime Must Protect Trans Women

For this change to offer justice to all women, the VAWG sector must learn to recognise trans women survivors as both the women and survivors that they are, writes Evie Muir.

Plans for police to record crimes motivated by misogyny as hate crimes, announced this week, have been framed as a positive way to enhance sentencing of those who perpetrate domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault, stalking and harassment in order to protect women.

In offering legal recognition to the ways “the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls” underpins gender-based violence, this new ruling proposes that police must record hate crimes which have been motivated by misogyny, with the data used to inform long-term policy change and action.

Many, such as the domestic abuse commissioner Nicole Jacobs and Labour MP Stella Creasy are in favour of this new ruling, and indeed some local authorities have already had such policies in place for years.

Other groups, including Abolitionist Futures and Sisters Uncut, are concerned by this display of carceral systems – which positions policing, prosecution, and imprisonment as the only solution to violence against women and girls.

Instead, they advocate for the abolition of punishment-based legislation in favour of strategies that prevent harm, such as addressing the socio-economic causes of violence, promoting restorative justice programmes to aid community accountability, and providing survivor-centred, trauma-informed mental health support for survivors.

As a domestic abuse survivor personally and a domestic abuse practitioner professionally, I see value in a combination of approaches. But as an LGBT domestic abuse practitioner, I’m concerned that making misogyny a hate crime could have unintended consequences for trans women.

“Placing the burden of proof on survivors to prove that misogyny was a motive in their victimisation is likely to be a soul-destroying feat for trans women.”

For example, in my six years supporting survivors from BAMER (Black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee) and LGBT communities, I’ve seen how the criminal justice system routinely fails survivors with multiple vulnerabilities. Survivors can present an entire folder of evidence against their abuser, yet routinely won’t be believed by the police, or be told that it’s not enough.

Placing the burden of proof on survivors to prove that misogyny was a motive in their victimisation is likely to be a soul-destroying feat for trans women, who not only have their experience of abuse questioned and misunderstood, but who have to navigate a system which fundamentally doesn’t recognise their gender identity in the first place.

Thanks to feminist activism, violence against women and girls has transformed from a private problem to a public issue, and there are undoubtable achievements in ensuring legal protection, safety, and service provision.

But critiquing the movement through an intersectional lens is vital to recognise how our current system perpetuates harm against trans survivors. We know, for example, that 80% of trans people will experience abuse in their lifetime, yet services continue to revictimise trans survivors.

Many organisations are committing to meaningful, sustainable trans inclusion, while I have encountered others which are purposefully and unapologetically trans-exclusive. Occasionally this is rooted in a level of ignorance that assumes a service is inclusive by default, but predominantly this is founded in outdated beliefs of biology, sex and gender.

In practice, this translates into overt exclusion – such as rejecting a self-referral instantly based on a person’s “masculine sounding” voice – and misguided support when that perpetuates transphobia. I’ve witnessed trans women fast-tracked to one-to-one support so cisgender women are not triggered in a group setting.

This unfounded fear that transgender women pose a perverse, predatory threat to cisgender women not only denies trans women the invaluable support group work offers, but also makes space for bigotry where discrimination in any other form would not be tolerated.

The exclusion can also be covert, masqueraded as care. I have seen services manipulate research which advocates for national, regional and local governments, commissioners and funders to develop LGBT specialist service provision in order to meet LGBT needs that mainstream services are failing to provide for. This has been used to turn trans survivors away at the door to imagined LGBT specialist support that currently doesn’t exist at a nationwide level. Meanwhile, mainstream organisations avoid the responsibility of ensuring their services are offering a safe space for all women.

“The VAWG sector must learn to recognise trans women survivors as both the women and survivors that they are.”

There is little evidence we can be confident that a sector which doesn’t fully recognise trans women as women will advocate for them within a law that serves women. In order for us to be sure trans women’s experiences of misogynistic hate crime reach the police, the sector must learn to recognise trans women survivors as both the women and survivors that they are.

The police service, then, must also record and review the data correctly. For that to happen, the government must be explicit in ensuring trans women are included in accordance to the Equalities Act 2010, which recognises gender reassignment to be a protected characteristic and includes “people who are proposing to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone a process to reassign their sex”.

Fundamentally, we need to see a complete overhaul of the violence against women and girls sector. A commitment to trans inclusion should be a mandatory requirement for good practice, and we need the government to commit to funding for LGBT specialist services nationwide.

Only then, will classing misogyny as a hate crime be able to offer justice for all women.

Evie Muir is a domestic abuse specialist, freelance journalist and activist. Follow her on Twitter at @xeviemuir


What's Hot