Stella Creasy: Women And Girls Deserve The Same Protection Given To Other Groups

Home secretary Priti Patel has rejected attempts to make misogyny a specific hate crime, arguing that it would only deliver “tokenistic” change.
Labour MP Stella Creasy
Labour MP Stella Creasy
Niall Carson - PA Images via Getty Images

Next week, MPs have a chance to give women and girls the same protections currently extended to other groups who are targeted by criminals solely because of who they are.

Voting for the Newlove amendment to the Policing bill will add ‘sex or gender’ to our hate crime laws.

It will ensure the police forces have better data to identify and prevent offences, as well as sending a clear message about the severity of these crimes through the courts.

This should be a simple change, recognising how misogyny drives crimes in the same way as acknowledging racism, homophobia and ableism does.

It wouldn’t create any new offences, but recognises the intent compelling them - and whilst it covers hatred of either men or women, the data from where this approach is used shows overwhelmingly it’s women coming forward as victims.

Yet instead of supporting policing good practice, the home secretary has branded the proposal ‘tokenistic’. The home secretary’s comments reflect the persistently poor understanding given to the risks women face.

The offending histories of many perpetrators reveal how they escalate through ‘lower level’ criminal behaviour; offences many women don’t report because they don’t think they will be taken seriously, such as exposure or street harassment.

In the quarter of police forces using this approach, the evidence repeatedly shows it benefits their ability to track offenders and better prevent crimes - and crucially gives victims of crimes much more confidence to come forward and report them.

Priti Patel’s words also speaks to the narrow understanding of how misogyny drives crime; that for many women the targeting they face for criminal behaviour is not solely focused on sexual or intimate conduct.

This is particularly true for those women who are targeted for more than one aspect of their identity, yet whose experiences are repeatedly not heard or addressed by our criminal justice system.

When a Muslim woman has her headscarf ripped off, we should recognise that the abuse she has received is not just about being muslim, but about being a muslim woman.

When disabled women are targeted for financial fraud, it is both their identity as disabled and as women that the perpetrator has attacked. Yet our current hate crime legislation asks these victims to ‘pick a side’ of who they are to be seen, rather than valuing them in their own right.

When the House of Lords passed the Newlove amendment they listened to frontline police officers who support this change. They also listened to specialist support charities and the Law Commission who were concerned in our current sentencing framework there is a risk sexual and domestic offences could end up with lesser sentences without being protected.

Such concerns are not new. Just as with crimes involving racist intent, our courts ‘carve out’ some offences from hate crime tariffs to ensure that they retain a higher penalty.

Stephen Lawrence’s murderers were not charged under hate crime legislation, but the racist intent of their actions formed a clear part of their trial.

The amendment ensures tougher sentences for domestic abuse and rape are retained whilst also giving our courts the ability to hold to account perpetrators of all other offences where there is evidence of their misogyny.

Making misogyny part of our hate crime rubric is not a silver bullet - but the evidence shows it is changing policing culture for the better and delivering results.

Ignoring the role this hatred plays in driving many crimes, misses a crucial opportunity to intervene early to prevent and deter violence against women and girls.

When MPs are asked to vote on the Newlove amendment next week, they have an opportunity to change this, and ensure that the law is firmly on the side of women and girls. Encourage your MP to take action by writing to them here.

Stella Creasy is the Labour MP for Walthamstow.


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