Sexism is no joke. It may be used as a punchline in comedies – “That’s sexist!” – but it remains a serious problem that needs to be increasingly remedied with each passing day. There is no reason that one gender should belittle another simply because they feel they are superior, yet there is no sort of punishment for being hurtful and condescending.
Police officials in the United Kingdom (UK) are out to change that, however, and plan to introduce a program that could classify misogyny as a hate crime. The program has already been pilot-tested in Nottingham, including recording such acts as wolf-whistling and unwanted sexual contact as hate crimes by the police department. Under the guidelines of the program, a hate crime was reported about every three days.
“It’s not about a new crime of hate, it’s about adding another category to the enhanced process that layers on top of an offence when it occurs,” says assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton. “You would take any offence that the person reported and if it reached the evidential standard and had been reported as a hate crime then it would attract an enhanced sentence.”
Right up until the program was being tested, the Office of National Statistics reported that the number of sexual offenses reported to English and Welsh police was 129,000.
Should the program be implemented, it would bring about a world of good for women that are affected by misogyny. Currently, the penalty for incurring a hate crime in England depends on the severity and context of the crime, and it isn’t very far-fetched to believe that misogyny as a hate crime would be equated to a religious hate crime. The number of reported hate crimes, however, would certainly increase, as it did in the test program.
While Hamilton believes that the current societal climate is an appropriate time to introduce the measures, he’s worried about the liberties the police may take. “My slight concern would be that the police move on their own,” he says.
He’s also concerned about whether the system would be upheld should the program be implemented. “It’s whether the criminal justice system from its end to end would respond to it. So that’s a bigger debate than me.”
Both are valid concerns – the baseline for what may be considered misogyny may differ among officers, depending on not only attributes like gender, but also how the concerns were raised and in what kind of environment. The same concerns can be applied to the justice system as well. Before the program can be implemented countrywide, there must be an established baseline of what can be considered misogyny so that no one is unfairly charged for a hate crime; the exact system must be imprinted onto the justice system.
The line of what can be considered misogyny isn’t particularly blurry, but for some, it can be. Regardless of any edits the program may need, Hamilton hopes that ultimately, the program will become a success and be implemented in a widespread manner. “Hopefully that is an indication to victims that it’s more reason to come forward,” he says, “and more reason to believe that the criminal justice system will take them seriously,”
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