Islington councillors urge government to make misogyny a hate crime

Islington Town Hall. Photograph: Islington Council.

Islington councillors are to vote this week on a resolution that could lead to the Town Hall calling on the government to recognise mysogyny as a hate crime in law.

The motion, brought by Cllrs 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.

Clarke-Perry and Williamson’s 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 per cent of women aged 18-24 were subjected to sexual harassment in public and approximately 23 per cent 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.”

The motion would see the council submit to the Law Commission’s consultation “at the earliest opportunity” in favour of strengthening legislation, as well as enable it to 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 call 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 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 in the Commission’s consultation include adding sex or gender to the protected characteristics, as well as equalising protection across all the characteristics.

The Commission has highlighted “major concerns” around the challenges in prosecuting disability hate crimes, as well as criticising the current system as complex and unclear, with the consultation also seeing calls for law to be expanded to include misogyny, ageism, and hostility towards homeless people, sex workers, people with non-religious philosophical beliefs or alternative subcultures.

The Town Hall has invested £2m over three years from April to tackle violence against women and girls.

The motion adds: “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.”