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UK Debates Considering Misogyny as a Hate Crime

Recently, women’s rights and misogyny have been a popular topic of discussion in the United Kingdom. The country has been debating whether or not to consider misogyny as a hate crime amidst a nationwide rise in crime rates.

The conversation became more pressing after shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, discussed racist and misogynistic letters sent to her both online and at her constituency office.

“Just yesterday the police came to my office to collect some of the letters we receive on a daily basis threatening rape, threatening violence. Hate-filled letters,” Abbott explained.

The British government has since ordered the Law Commission to review whether or not sex and gender should be added to “protected characteristics,” which currently include race, religion, gender identity, sexuality, and disability.

Sara Thornton, Chief Constable and chair of the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC), does not believe misogyny should necessarily be considered punishable by law.

“We all think misogyny and misandry are an issue. I’m questioning whether a criminal offence is the best way of dealing with what is essentially an issue about how we all treat each other,” Thornton stated.

Thornton explained that police will of course enforce new laws put into place by parliament, but stated that resources were already “stretched” for traditional crime.

Abbott has stated that she fully supports making misogyny a hate crime, however she wants police officers to have proper resources so that they do not have to “pick and choose” what crimes they respond to.

“I am in favor because it is the right thing to do to take the most serious action against hate crime, but we cannot give police more responsibilities without providing the resources,” Abbott stated.

Some campaigners who have asked the government to consider misogyny a hate crime have argued that it “would help tackle the root causes of violence against women and map the true scale of harassment.”

Misogyny is defined by the Cambridge English dictionary as “feelings of hating women, or the belief that men are much better than women.”

There is no arguing that misogyny in itself is disgusting. However, it is not necessarily a hate crime.

The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

If a person is misogynistic, but does not act on their misogyny in a violent manner, it is difficult to say whether or not they should be punished for their beliefs. In countries that grant their citizens freedom of speech, the issue becomes even trickier. With the freedom to say practically anything, how can a person who makes misogynistic comments receive legal punishment?

There is no doubt that holding people accountable for their misogyny would better society as a whole. However, considering misogyny a hate crime would not be an easy process, seeing as though it could potentially infringe on the freedom of speech.

Do you believe misogyny should be considered as a hate crime?

Featured Image by Policy Exchange on Flickr
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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