Misogyny should be criminalised in Scotland under 'radical' reform, report recommends

Misogyny should be criminalised as part of “radical” and “transformative” legal reforms to protect women from abuse, a report recommends.

The document, titled “Misogyny – A Human Rights Issue”, calls for the creation of a Misogyny and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, which would create a new statutory aggravation of misogyny.

It would also create new offences of stirring up hatred against women and girls to tackle, amongst other things, the threat from incel (involuntary celibates) and other extremist groups.

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Baroness Helena Kennedy QC. Picture: Mark Milan/Getty Images

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A new offence of public misogynistic harassment and another of issuing threats of, or invoking, rape or sexual assault or disfigurement of women and girls, online and offline, would also be brought in.

The recommendations, in a report for the Scottish Government, are the result of a year-long investigation by an eight-strong working group chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC.

She said: “This is an issue that affects 52 per cent of the population. The daily grind of sexual harassment and abuse degrades women’s lives, yet it seems to be accepted as part of what it means to be a woman.

“The failure to acknowledge the ramifications of what is seen as low-level harassment is just one of the ways in which the criminal justice system fails women. What is seen as low-level harassment is often the subsoil from which more grave crimes emerge.

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“The current system allows abhorrent behaviour to be missed, ignored and normalised. The women we spoke to through this investigation told us: enough is enough; something must be done.

“We are recommending that the Scottish Government creates a specific piece of legislation for women – to protect them from the daily abuses which blight their lives.

“This malign conduct does not happen to men in any comparable way. That is why new law should be created exclusively for women, and those perceived to be women, reflecting the inherently gendered nature of the problem we have been asked to address.”

Baroness Kennedy said such law would establish new boundaries and, importantly, “shift the dial towards perpetrator behaviours” and away from the current focus on women as victims.

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The report, published on International Women’s Day, does not recommend the addition of sex as a characteristic to existing hate crime legislation as the working group feels misogyny is “so deeply rooted in our patriarchal ecosystem” that it requires a more fundamental set of responses.

South of the border, MPs last month rejected attempts to make misogyny a hate crime, voting 314 to 190 to remove a Lords amendment that sought to make misogyny a hate crime.

The report found being on the receiving end of misogynistic behaviour is the routine experience of women and girls in Scotland and the experiences of LGBTI+ and minority ethnic women and girls tend to be even worse than those of their straight, white counterparts.

It suggests a Statutory Misogyny Aggravation should be made available in new legislation so that a judge has to take account of the misogynistic nature of conduct when sentencing.

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Scotland’s justice secretary Keith Brown welcomed the report and said the recommendations would now be closely considered.

He said: “This is an extremely important piece of work to help inform policy to address the many forms of violence, transgression and abuse experienced by women.”

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