Many women and girls every day experience can include being followed home by a man aggressively sexually propositioning her and refusing to take no for an answer; a young girl being shouted at by men making lewd gestures as she walks to school in her uniform; a pregnant woman being groped on the bus; a runner being made to feel so unsafe by repeated verbal harassment that she simply gives up exercising outside; a women who buys a car to drive the walking distance to work because of constant, intimidating sexualized street harassment on her route; obscene remarks about her anatomy yelled from occupants of a passing van whilst cycling to work, or being told to smile.
Acceptable? Reasonable? A compliment?
In my opinion, absolutely not. All the above examples can be recorded as crimes by your police force. Nottinghamshire Police, in April 2016, were the first police force in the country to record Misogyny as a hate crime. It was a proportionate response to the real and present problem faced routinely by one half of the population through application of the same principles that apply to other strands of hate crime – that they are victimised simply through their identity as women.
The decision by Nottinghamshire Police came as a result of the scale and impact being uncovered by a hate crime inquiry carried out by Nottingham Citizens in 2014. However, as the inquiry began analysing the results, they found one very clear trend emerging: women reported being victimised simply because of their gender. No similar claims were made by men during this inquiry. The inquiry uncovered a need for further work to identify and catalogue crimes and incidences perpetrated towards women solely because of their gender. 38% of women reporting hate crime explicitly linked this to gender, a category currently unrecognised in anti-hate crime legislation, enforcement and data collection. In addition, the inquiry found that the impact on victims is significant, with “psychological wellbeing acutely undermined”. The national evidence base reinforced the findings of the Citizens work.
In adopting Misogyny as a form of hate crime, Nottinghamshire Police was also mindful of the importance of intersectionality in hate crime, especially when targeted at women, particularly but not exclusively trans-phobia, homophobia, and Islamophobia, with the dis-proportionality of women being targeted.
Interestingly since the introduction of misogyny as a hate crime there has been an uplift of victim satisfaction in other types of hate crime. My hypothesis for this is that police officers are, still, in the main white, male, ostensibly heterosexual, from a Christian tradition, and without a disability. However approximately 50% of frontline officers (30% overall) are women and this has enabled an improved empathy with other hate crime victims – “walked in my shoes”. When female officers gave powerful testimony during training, I also saw this enabling some male officers to understand that colleagues who they see as “powerful”, “strong”, “takes no nonsense” women can also be victims and shifting their paradigm of victimisation and victim impact.
An independent, academic evaluation of Nottinghamshire Police’s policy and its implementation was published in July 2018. The key findings were that Misogyny Hate Crime is very widespread, that it has a serious and significant impact on victims, that overwhelmingly the public support the policy developed by Nottinghamshire Police, and it should be rolled out nationally.
Many other police forces have now implemented a similar policy, with others still considering their position. The Law Commission is currently undertaking a full review of hate crime including elements that are not currently subject of legislation i.e. misogyny. It is time to bring the law and policing up to date in the 21st century and place misogyny as a hate crime on the statute book and ensure that all women and girls fulfil their potential.