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Britain mulls reform to make harassment of women a hate crime

by Meka Beresford | @mekaberesford | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 6 September 2018 18:07 GMT

Parliamentarian Stella Creasy is seen at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote outside parliament in London, February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

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"We know that misogyny is one of the underlying causes of violence against women and girls"

By Meka Beresford

LONDON, Sept 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain has shown it is serious about ending violence against women by announcing a review that could make abuse driven by misogyny a hate crime, activists said on Thursday.

The justice ministry announced the wide-ranging legal review on Wednesday during a parliamentary debate on another issue - a bill to make "upskirting", or secretly taking photos up women's skirts, a crime punishable by up to two years in prison.

"Now the government has committed to looking into all hate crime, there is a clear commitment from the top that women are believed and their experiences taken seriously," said Martha Jephcott, a campaigner supporting tougher laws to protect women.

Public support for the abuse and harassment of women to be treated as a hate crime has risen since the #MeToo movement triggered a deluge of complaints about misogyny, which refers to the dislike or prejudice against women.

Almost a quarter of women in Britain have been sexually harassed in a public place in the last five years, according to a poll by YouGov.

The Fawcett Society, Britain's leading women's rights charity, described the review as an "important victory", which could lead to offences driven by misogyny being treated as hate crimes, like those motivated by racism or homophobia.

"We know that misogyny is one of the underlying causes of violence against women and girls, the harassment, objectification and sexism they face," its chief executive, Sam Smethers, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"We can only begin to address that by calling it out, so it is an important, essential step."

Nottinghamshire Police became the first force in Britain to adopt the new approach two years ago, recording public harassment of women – from groping and explicit language to sexual assault - as a misogynistic hate crime.

The legal review was prompted by Stella Creasy, a lawmaker who was pushing for misogyny to be recognised as an aggravating factor in the upskirting bill to encourage tougher sentences for public harassment of women.

"Finally we are sending a message misogyny isn't just a part of life we put up with but something men and women together commit to tackling," she said on Instagram.

(Reporting by Meka Beresford @mekaberesford, Editing by Katy Migiro. (Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org))

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