Great Grimsby MP Melanie Onn has called for Humberside Police to follow the example set by Nottinghamshire Police and treat all forms of misogyny and everyday sexism as a hate crime. Is she right to do this though?
The recently re-elected Labour MP has pointed to statistics which have revealed that the number of sexual offences in North East Lincolnshire has almost trebled in the past nine years, increasing from 184 separate offences in 2007-08, to 480 in the past 12 months.
Across the whole of the Humberside Police Authority Area there were 2,233 sexual offences recorded last year, up from just 957 in 2007-08.
The vast majority of sexual offences are against women and girls.
The Labour MP said: “The increasing levels of violence against women and girls in the local area is unacceptable and must be put to a stop.
“Tackling sexist behaviour earlier on could stop people believing it is acceptable and prevent more serious abuses further down the line.
“The evidence from other parts of the country shows that treating misogyny as a hate crime is making a real difference, with women ‘walking taller’ as a result.
“I am urging Humberside Police to start doing the same here.”
A hate crime can be filed in Nottinghamshire if there are any unwanted sexual advances or unwanted verbal contact with a women.
But should misogyny be treated as a hate crime and does the law not already protect women from assault and harassment?
What the law says
Most of what the Great Grimsby MP is asking for is protected by the law already through sexual assault and harassment statutes, so it unclear as to what labelling them as a hate crime will achieve.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 already bans all touching which is sexual in nature, but the person has not given consent to do so.
Harassment, not only for women but for everyone, has been covered by the Public Order Act 1986 which states that a person can be found guilty if they cause alarm to a person or distress by using threatening, abusive, insulting language or disorderly behaviour.
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 states that a crime which is racially or religiously motivated, can lead to extended sentences and this could be emulated for misogyny and everyday sexism, though for issues such as wolf-whistling it would be unlikely.
Problems which may occur when treating misogyny as a hate crime are that the definition has become so broad.
Who is it that will define the term misogyny or determine what is sexist? Will it be considered misogyny if someone is to be offended? And if so, offence can differ person to person.
Another big concern is why is it only misogyny and not all forms of sexism which can be considered a hate crime?
It is clear that women are disproportionately affected by sexual offences, there is no evidence to suggest otherwise, but to only suggest that only misogyny should be described as a hate crime almost denies the possibility that it can happen to men.
When we look at domestic abuse, which the Labour MP links to sexual harassment in her letter, we know that 7.7% of women experience it after the age of 16 but so do 4.4% of men.
A spokesperson for Lincolnshire Police confirmed to Lincolnshire Reporter that the force will be adopting a policy which treats all forms of sexism as a hate crime, including misogyny.
This will fall under a broader category titled ‘Gender-Based Hostility’.
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