Georgia L. Gilholy is a Young Voices UK contributor.
Last December, the Law Commission rejected a government-commissioned review into whether misogyny ought to be made a hate crime.
Six months on and much of the Twittersphere continues to protest the decision, even claiming that the failure of the idea was unsurprising given that the Government’s “own MPs are allegedly engaging in such behaviour”.
While there is no doubt that there are politicos on both sides of the aisle who succumb to sexist tendencies, deciding against making misogyny a hate crime remains the sensible course.
Indeed, the question of women’s safety cannot be confronted without admitting the ineptitude of the current justice system, a conundrum that rolling out fuzzy thought crimes will do little to remedy.
In the year ending 2021, there were a whopping 10,679 hate crime prosecutions across England and Wales, resulting in 9,263 convictions. In contrast, of the 61,158 rapes reported to police the same year, there were just 1,557 prosecutions and 1,109 convictions.
A further sticking point with this campaign is that swathes of it back including transgender people among those who can be a victim of anti-woman crimes.
This is misplaced, given that trans people already possess their own hate crime category. At its most cynical, this demand is likely another attempt by progressive campaigners to deny the obvious definition of women, to whom misogyny is the moral offence against.
Transgender people should of course be able to feel safe, and whether or not hate crime legislation is conducive to this is a separate debate. However, lumping in the suffering of transgender people with that of biological women does little to serve anyone but the desires of radical activists.
The Law Commission itself is plainly aware of the need to safeguard “gender critical” opinions, e.g. the view that biological women are the only kind, given that it is scientifically impossible to change sex.
Indeed, it would surely become impossible for people to publicly state these views if, say, misgendering a trans person who identifies as a woman were to be redefined as criminal misogyny? Or if arguing that biological men ought not to be allowed into women’s prisons due to the risk to female inmates were to be proscribed as anti-woman hatred?
Despite claiming such beliefs could be protected, the Commission’s suggestion of extending laws against “stirring up hatred” to include sex and gender would likely lead to an explosion of prosecutions for subjective and petty incidents (for which hate crime policing is already infamous).
Beyond British shores, there are even more extreme examples of how hate crime laws can be expanded to attack free expression.
Last November, Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was investigated after being accused of insulting Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in his fictional writing. Just last month, Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen won a lengthy and expensive legal battle after sharing her traditional Christian view of marriage in a tweet and radio appearance, for which she almost faced two years in prison.
While many on the right lazily dismiss the issue of misogyny as “woke” nonsense, there are of course serious issues that disproportionately impact women.
After all, we live in a culture in which the dehumanisation of (usually) women via pornography is categorised as entertainment. A shocking seven per cent of British women have been pressured into an abortion by their partner.
Just one person has been convicted of female genital mutilation despite an estimated 137,000 UK-born women and girls being victims of the crime as of 2014. Violence against women is perpetrated on a vast scale without proportional convictions, with experts even lamenting that the situation amounts to a de facto decriminalisation of rape.
But is funnelling pricey resources toward the foggy expansion of hate crime laws really the solution to these issues?
The category of ‘hate crime’ itself is wanting. Given that what amounts to ‘hate’ is based on how a given action is received rather than intended (both are which may be tough to evidence) it might be that cracking down on what may occur as a result of hate – theft, violence, harassment, and so on – would be more useful for victims.
Moreover, such laws fail to deal with the roots of actual hatred. Criminalising particular thoughts does not necessarily result in the reconsideration of them by those who possess them.
While campaigning to make misogyny a hate crime is a sure-fire way for “feminist” organisations and MPs to make headlines, perhaps strengthening the justice system’s ability to tackle violence, against both women and men, would be a more useful start.