The Law Commission of England and Wales is working on new policy recommendations to include women under a list of protected classes.
The Law Commission of England and Wales has published a new report that states women should be protected under expanded hate crime laws. The independent body, which advises the government, claimed misogyny should be punished in the same way as other forms of discrimination are, particularly when it is the motivation for a crime. Several campaigners welcomed the proposal, arguing that sexism is one of the root causes of violence against women, similar to hate against other minority groups. The Law Commission has since carried out a thorough review of the current legislation and will place numerous policy recommendations into a consultation, BBC News reports.
As per the status quo, when a crime is carried out against an individual (such as assault, harassment, or criminal damage) owing to their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or transgender identity, it is considered a hate crime by the country's courts. At present, women are not considered a protected class. Therefore, advocacy groups, which have criticized the complex nature of the current laws, are calling for sex and gender to be added to the list. Labour MP Stella Creasy said this could be "our moment for change," whereas the Home Office stated it was "committed to stamping out hate crime."
At present, only seven police forces in England and Wales consider misogyny a hate crime. This definition has not been adopted across the board, leading to discrepancies in how victims are treated. This is concerning as the Law Commission claimed that the "vast majority of evidence" has suggested crimes against women were deeply linked or motivated by misogyny. With this in mind, the independent body will make official recommendations to the government in the following year. The Home Office has asked the commission to "explore how to make current legislation more effective, and if there should be additional protective characteristics." They also affirmed they would "respond to the review in full when it is complete."
Professor Penney Lewis, the commissioner for criminal law, said, "Hate crime has no place in our society and we have seen the terrible impact that it can have on victims. Our proposals will ensure all protected characteristics are treated in the same way, and that women enjoy hate crime protection for the first time." Lucy Hadley, who is the campaign and policy manager at Women's Aid, concurred. "Sexism and women's inequality are the root causes of violence against women, including domestic abuse, sexual violence, street harassment including 'upskirting,' and online forms of crime, and these often intersect with other identities, including race and ethnicity, sexuality and disability," she said. "Making clear that crimes happen to women 'because they are women' could help to send a clear message that women will be believed, protected, and supported if they experience sexist violence and abuse."