Editor’s note: This article references an incident of homophophic violence.
A campaign to make misogyny a specific hate crime in the UK is gaining more ground, as a new report reveals that women are three times more likely to experience or receive threats of sexual violence than men.
Two women, Melania Geymonat and her partner Chris, who were unwillingly thrown into the spotlight after they suffered a violent, homophobic attack on a London bus last year, have joined the call for a change in law, it was reported Thursday.
The couple, who have since spoken out about male violence in interviews, wrote in a statement that they were supporting the campaign to help give vulnerable people more protection against crimes similar to the one they experienced.
“We were beaten up by a group of young men, who demanded that we kiss. It started off with aggressive harassment and quickly escalated into assault and robbery,” they wrote.
“In the wake of being subjected to a homophobic hate crime we have been looking to find ways to ensure that we prevent other, more vulnerable people, from having to go through the horrors we did,” the statement continued.
Making misogyny a hate crime means that it would be considered an aggravating factor in crimes such as violence and threats – in the same way that racism and religious hatred in speech, and in acts of violence or vandalism, is considered an aggravating factor that can bring with it stronger penalties.
The campaign to make this change is being spearheaded by Citizens UK, a community-organising charity that works to inspire people to make changes in their own communities.
New research from the organisation published on Sept. 9 revealed that “hate motivated by gender is already a factor in 33.5% of all existing hate crime, and yet gender is not currently protected under hate crime law.”
The research was based on a survey of over 1,000 respondents and focus groups across five cities — Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle, Manchester, and London).
It found that women were three times more likely to experience sexual assault and/or be threatened with sexual violence than men. It also found that religion and ethnicity exacerbated the issue – Muslim women, for example, were disproportionately victimised for both their gender and religion, the study found.
The report recommends that the “UK government levels up the criteria to include misogyny hate crime specifically, to allow women to report hate incidents accurately according to the reasons they were targeted.”
The campaign to make this change is supported by a former police chief, religious leaders, and politicians including the Labour MP for Walthamstow, Stella Creasy, who tabled an amendment to 2020’s Domestic Abuse Bill to include misogyny as a hate crime — which is currently making its way through the House of Lords.
Speaking to Vogue magazine in July, Creasy went into further detail as to how the change would work, in relation to domestic abuse. “We must recognise the root of where domestic abuse comes from,” Creasy said.
“First of all, we should be very clear that every kind of domestic violence deserves support and deserves resources. But what the evidence tells us is that disproportionately, it’s women and girls who are the victims.”
“By making misogyny a hate crime… it [would recognise] how hatred and hostility of women causes harm,” Creasy added.
While recognising this specific motivation for crime would be a first for most police forces, there is some precedent in the UK for such a change in the law.
Citizen’s UK successfully approached Nottinghamshire’s police force in 2014 to consider the hatred of women and girls, misogyny, as a hate crime and in 2016 it became the first force in the country to do so.
Sue Fish, the now-retired chief constable of the Nottinghamshire force, writing in the Telegraph on Thursday, says the policy has “transformed women’s lives” in the area.
She said: “Feedback was that women in Nottinghamshire felt much safer, more comfortable, and proud of their area.”
“We also saw women feeling much more confident to come to the police to report what had happened to them,” she added.
Since the change was made in Nottinghamshire, Scotland has also begun the process of taking misogyny hate crime through its legislature in Holyrood; and the Law Commission, an independent body that analyses and reforms UK laws, launched a review of hate crime laws in 2019 which will be published soon, according to Citizens UK.
Exclusive: Angry but defiant - Melania Geymonat and her girlfriend Chris speak out after a homophobic attack on a London night bus: "I am not scared about being visibly queer. If anything, you should do it more."https://t.co/QTYBkqKhfgpic.twitter.com/jKY6Qbx2yr— BBC London (@BBCLondonNews) June 7, 2019