Boris Johnson against making misogyny a hate crime

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said he does not support calls to make misogyny a hate crime. He claims there is “abundant” existing legislation to combat violence against women and “widening the scope” of what the police are expected to do will only exacerbate the problem. 

This comes after the murders of Sarah Everard and, more recently, Sabina Nessa of which have raised the profile of discussions regarding women’s safety in our communities. Womens’ rights campaigners say misogyny is a “root cause” of violence against women and are calling for it to be considered a hate crime in England and Wales. If misogyny became a hate crime it would give judges the ability to increase the level of punishment inflicted upon those who partake in a misogynistic offence. Under the current system, hate crimes can fall under race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and transgender identity but do not extend to prejudice against women directly. 

In response to calls to include misogyny amongst this list of hate crimes, Johnson said: “What you need to do is get the police to focus on the very real crimes, the very real feeling of injustice and betrayal that many people feel”. Labour MP, Stella Creasy, suggested she felt this response was inadequate, telling the BBC: “The fact the prime minister dismisses it and doesn’t have an alternative plan speaks volumes about whether you can trust Boris Johnson to take this seriously”. 

It does seem Johnson agrees “there must be radical change” in policing. However, he believes this should be aimed at tackling the most heinous of crimes, such as rape. Others argue it is the smaller offences that must be taken more seriously if we are to combat the bigger ones due to a perceived culture of acceptance and normalisation of violence against women which they wish to disrupt. 

Justice Minister, Victoria Atkins, told the BBC’s World At One that women should no longer have to put up with unpleasant or violent banter that makes them feel uncomfortable, nor have to deal with being “touched up” whilst on public transport. 

An extra 650 police officers will be dispatched to London’s streets over the next six months to try to reduce violent crime. For many, however, this does not create a feeling of safety, particularly after the sentencing of a Met Police officer for the violent murder of Sarah Everard. Following Sarah and Sabina’s cases, the Met Police recommended women flag down a bus should they feel unsafe with an officer. This has also been met with uncertainty and outrage.

In an attempt to tackle the male-dominant culture within the police, the PM has suggested recruiting and promoting more female officers would be beneficial. There are also several reviews and independent studies underway to decide whether misogyny should be considered a hate crime. The Law Commission – an independent body that advises the government – has said sex or gender-based hostility should be a hate crime, but are yet to release their official recommendations. Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has also announced a separate review into the force’s standards and culture.

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Rachel Keane

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May 2022
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