Police forces across Britain should treat harassment and abuse of women that is motivated by misogyny as a hate crime, lawmakers and rights groups said in an open letter on Monday. The British government last year said it would review hate crime legislation and look at whether it should encompass new categories such as misogyny. Public support for such a move has risen since the #MeToo movement triggered a deluge of complaints about misogyny - defined as a hatred of women.
Lawmakers Stella Creasy and Peter Bottomley and campaigner Helen Pankhurst, the great-granddaughter of women's suffrage activist Emmeline, were among those who signed the open letter. "Because misogyny - acts targeted at women, because they are women - is not included within the law, women are left unprotected," read the letter, addressed to Britain's top police officer Cressida Dick and National Police Chiefs Council head Sara Thornton.
"Women have the right to live free from intimidation, abuse and violence." Unlike other hate crime categories - such as race, sexual orientation or religion - police currently do not record crimes that are driven by the hatred of women. "We are not currently considering extending our definition of hate crime to capture forms of prejudice and hostility that are not already included within existing hate crime legislation," a Metropolitan Police spokesman said in emailed comments to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Official data show there were 67,000 reports of gender-related hate crimes last year, and 57,000 of those targeted were women. "We have to recognise how serious misogyny is. It is at the root of violence against women and girls," said Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, a women's rights group. "By naming it as a hate crime we will take that vital first step," she said in a statement. One in five women in Britain has experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16, according to government figures.
Campaigners are urging police chiefs to follow the lead of Nottinghamshire Police, which in 2016 became the first force in Britain to record public harassment of women – from groping and explicit language to sexual assault – as a misogyny hate crime. Katie Ghose, head of domestic violence support group Women's Aid, said recognising misogyny as a hate crime would help more women come forward to report their abuse. "It is clear that recognising misogyny as a hate crime gives survivors greater confidence that our criminal justice system will treat all forms of violence against women and girls more seriously," Ghose said in a statement.
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