Police will begin recording misogyny as a hate crime amid calls for action on women’s safety after the death of Sarah Everard.
Police forces will be asked to record and identify any crimes of violence, including stalking and sexual offences, where the victim believed it to have been motivated by “hostility based on their sex,” a Home Office minister said.
The change will begin on an “experimental basis” from the autumn and could inform longer-term decisions once the Law Commission’s review of hate crime is complete.
It comes after growing pressure from campaigners, including Melania Geymonat, a woman who was beaten by a group of teens on a London bus in 2019 when she and her partner refused to kiss.
“I had no doubt about what happened: we were attacked because we were together, but also because we were women,” she previously told PinkNews.
“I don’t know what came first, misogyny or homophobia, because it’s both at the same time. So for me, it’s a huge mistake not to recognise that. We are never one thing alone, we are the intersection of many different aspects of our identities, and the law must reflect that.”
Misogyny was first classified as a hate crime in Nottinghamshire in 2016, with feedback reporting improved perceptions of safety for men as well as women.
Despite this the change was not adopted nationwide and only seven of 46 English and Welsh Police forces currently undertake local reporting on misogyny or gendered hate crimes.
The government was spurred to act when Labour’s Baroness Kennedy of Cradley warned the House of Lords of an “epidemic of violence” against women and girls.
Gathering evidence of misogynistic crimes is crucial to recognising connections, Kennedy said. “If we are not recording crime targeted at women, how can we effectively address violence against women and girls and the police’s response to it?”
Kennedy had tabled an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill that would have made police record where crimes were motivated by the victim’s sex or gender. It appeared likely to pass, but was withdrawn following the announcement.
Critics of the new classification have suggested that making misogyny a hate crime will result in men being arrested for minor forms of harassment, like wolf whistling.
However, Women’s Aid notes that police forces who are recording misogyny have not seen an influx in reporting of wolf whistling, but have instead received a growing number of reports of sexual harassment and assault.
Retired police chief constable Sue Fish, who spearheaded misogyny hate crime reporting in Nottinghamshire, said the results in her region were “incredible”.
She expressed hope that it would improve policing of hate crimes against trans women, who often fall at the unfortunate intersection of misogyny and transphobia.
“It’s about allowing victims to say: ‘This is happening to me because I am a trans woman, not just because I am trans.’ Whereas what’s been reported previously would have been very one-dimensional, if at all,” she told PinkNews in September.
The lobby group Citizens UK also welcomed the change, saying it was “over the moon” to hear that the government was finally listening to communities.
“It is a significant step towards transforming the harmful attitudes that exist and making society safer for women and girls,” said campaigner Taj Khan.
“This development will allow tracking and recording of misogynistic crimes so that patterns can be identified, and perpetrators can be held accountable.”