Crimes motivated by misogyny will now be recorded as hate incidents in England and Wales – but the Women’s Equality Party says it doesn’t go far enough in protecting women.
A hate incident, or hate crime, is currently recognised as any incident where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.
Seven police forces currently choose to record misogyny as a hate crime, but campaigners have called for a nationwide approach to help crack down on abuse and harassment of women and girls.
From autumn, all police forces in England and Wales will be asked to record crimes caused by “hostility” based on sex or gender.
The policy shift follows the public outpouring about women’s safety following the death of Sarah Everard, plus widespread criticism of the Met Police’s response to the vigil in her name. Further dismay came as Boris Johnson announced plans to place plain-clothed police officers in bars and nightclubs to protect women from “predatory” offenders – rather than tackling the root of the problem.
Labour MP Stella Creasy, who has led calls for a change in the law, said the switch will help police “better understand the scale of the problem and so be better able to prevent these crimes”.
“It should give all women confidence that if they come forward to report crimes they will be taken seriously, too,” she added.
And Felicia Willow, chief executive at The Fawcett Society, calls it a “major step forward” in changing how we understand, address and prevent violence against women. “Misogyny is so common that we don’t see it – instead, it is dismissed and trivialised,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“Classifying it as a hate crime will mean women have confidence to report an incident knowing it will be taken seriously. Recording these incidents as hate crimes will give us the data we need to better tackle this issue and bring about societal change.”
However, Tabitha Morton, deputy leader of the Women’s Equality Party, says recording misogyny as a hate crime motivation does not go far enough in response to the past fortnight.
“Whilst we welcome the additional data capture that this guidance will provide and the recognition that misogyny is dangerous – too often fatal – for women, there are still many challenges to women’s safety that remain unaddressed,” Morton tells HuffPost UK.
“The fact is that conviction rates for sexual abuse and rape are abysmal, and women’s services are still underfunded and inaccessible for many. This cannot be the only outcome of the tragic events of the past two weeks.”
Morton adds: “Recording misogyny as a hate crime must be recognised as the first of a number of steps the government and police must take for women to feel free from the threat of violence, but certainly not the last.”