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UK lawmakers mull making misogyny a hate crime amid anger over murder

by Emma Batha | @emmabatha | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 15 March 2021 18:13 GMT

Women gather at a memorial site at Clapham Common Bandstand, following the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, in London, Britain March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

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Lawmakers consider changing the law as Sarah Everard's murder sparks nationwide debate about violence against women

By Emma Batha

LONDON, March 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - British lawmakers will consider on Monday whether to make misogyny a hate crime amid calls for tougher action on violence against women following national outrage over the murder of a woman who went missing as she walked home in London.

Campaigners say changing the law to classify misogyny as a hate crime would help in the detection and prevention of offences including street harassment, sexual assault, rape and domestic abuse.

An amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill to be debated in Britain's upper parliamentary chamber, the House of Lords, would require police in England and Wales to record cases in which crimes were motivated by hatred of someone's sex or gender.

"This is a simple measure that we could take now to start making sure every woman is safer at home and on our streets," said parliamentarian Alicia Kennedy, who tabled the amendment, which has cross-party support.

The murder of Sarah Everard, who vanished in south London on March 3, has triggered a debate about violence against women and raised awareness of how it curtails everyday freedoms.

A police officer, Wayne Couzens, has been charged with Everard's kidnap and murder and will appear in court on Tuesday.

About a quarter of 43 police constabularies in England and Wales have already made misogyny a hate crime, trialed the policy or are considering implementing it.

Similar protections already exist for race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity and can lead to harsher penalties for those convicted.

Campaigners say misogyny generates a culture in which violence and abuse is tolerated, excused and repeated.

"I urge every woman who has walked with keys in her hands at night, been abused or attacked online or offline to come forward and be heard," said lawmaker Stella Creasy, who has led calls for misogyny to be made a hate crime.

"This is our moment for change - rather than telling women not to worry about violence ... it's time to send a message that women should be equally able to live free from fear of assault or harm from those who target them simply for who they are."

Separately, the Court of Appeal dismissed a legal challenge on Monday against the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) over its policy on prosecuting rape and other sexual offences.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) had argued that prosecutors had stopped sending cases to court that they feared would be rejected by juries.

It said prosecutions halved between 2016 and 2020 with only 1,758 cases being pursued in 2018/2019 despite 55,000 allegations being reported to the police.

The Court of Appeal ruled there was no change in policy.

EVAW director Andrea Simon said it was "deeply disappointed" by the ruling which marked "another establishment betrayal of victims of violence against women and girls". (Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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